Milk processor, Lion Dairy and Drinks says it has thoroughly dealt with the source of a food contamination scare which forced the recall of several milk product lines to the NSW market last week.
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Staff at the company’s bottling plant at Penrith in outer Sydney worked overtime last weekend to make up for production shortfalls after Lion had to dump milk packed under the Dairy Farmers, Dairy Choice, and the Community Company’s The Good Drop brands.

The company has confirmed its supply position to retailers was “back to normal” on Monday after traces of E. coli were discovered at one point on one bottling line.

On February 13, Lion, which owns the Dairy Farmers brand, issued a recall of Dairy Farmers full cream white milk products in one- and three-litre bottles because of potential microbial contamination from E. coli.

The products in question had use by dates of February 24 and 25.

The next evening it followed up with a second recall announcement relating to two litre bottled milk under the Dairy Choice, and Community Company’s The Good Drop labels.

Lion owns the Dairy Choice brand, but contract packs The Good Drop for Metcash’s IGA supermarkets.

Both those product recalls related to full cream white milk lines with a February 25 use by date.

Last week and throughout the weekend, production was expedited for all impacted products and the Penrith manufacturing site ran at maximum overtime to replenish the network
– Lion Dairy and Drinks representative

The products in question were distributed for sale across NSW through Coles, Woolworths and IGA stores and some independent milk bars, cafes and convenience stores.

However, a company representative said in both cases much of the stock had not actually reached retailers or consumers before the recall was activated.

The milk was withdrawn from sale because there was a risk of it causing illness if consumed.

“We are now back in full supply for impacted products,” she said.

“Last week and throughout the weekend, production was expedited for all impacted products and the Penrith manufacturing site ran at maximum overtime to replenish the network.”

She said Lion Dairy and Drinks was committed to the “highest standards of safety and product quality for our consumers and customers”.

“We sincerely regret that this has happened and for any inconvenience it has caused our customers and consumers.”

Lion is in the throes of selling off its remaining dairy division assets to China’s Mengniu Dairy, which has agreed to pay $600 million for the national milk processing business and its numerous white and flavoured milk brands.

The dairy business, owned by Japanese brewing and food giant, Kirin, was on the market for more than a year before the sale was announced in November, subject to regulatory approvals.

The dairy and drinks division is Australia’s biggest retail milk processor with a brand portfolio including Dairy Farmers, Masters, Pura, Farmers Union, Big M and Dare, plus juice brands Berri and Daily Juice company.

The division is part of the broader beverage and food company, Lion Group, which includes many of Australasia’s favourite brands in beer, wine and dairy.

Last year Lion also offloaded its King Island specialty cheese business to Canada’s big cheese name, Saputo, for $280m.

A former Fonterra consultant and a molecular biologist have teamed up to create lab-grown milk proteins without the need for a cow.

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