New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra has been fined NZ$300,000 (€188,000) over how it handled last year’s botulism scare.

The judge presiding over the case, Peter Hobbs, said New Zealand’s reputation had been ‘shaken’ as a result of the scare. Fonterra was in court over four charges relating to a fear that whey concentrate, used in infant formula, had been contaminated. The fears were unfounded, but not before manufacturers had recalled vast quantities of infant formula from countries such as China and Saudi Arabia.

The judge said the offence had been caused through carelessness and a failure to follow procedures, but was neither deliberate nor reckless. However, he said it was damaging to the country’s reputation. “New Zealand’s reputation for high-quality dairy products was shaken,” he said.

The case was taken by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) in New Zealand. Fonterra raised the alarm last August and recalled some 38 tonnes of whey protein concentrate with concerns a bacteria in the whey protein concentrate would cause botulism.

Fonterra is being sued by French dairy group Danone over a loss in sales it says stemmed from the incident.

Fonterra is the largest dairy exporter in the world and has over 10,000 farmer suppliers.