Ornua, the maker of Kerrygold, has hit back at claims by Germany's most powerful consumer magazine that its butter is a germ-filled health risk.
Germany's Test magazine, published by Stiftung Warentest and the local equivalent of the UK's Which?, slapped an "inadequate" rating on one of the two varieties of Kerrygold butter sold in Germany. The magazine said the product was a health risk for people with compromised immune systems as it was filled with microbes.
Ornua’s German subsidiary has contested the claims, insisting there are no health issues with its product. Instead it suggested the problem may have arisen if refrigeration was interrupted after it left its plant in western Germany.
“We hope that consumers won’t lose trust in our brand and know we offer a high-quality product,” saidRegine Schlei, a spokeswoman for Ornua Deutschland.
The magazine gave top marks to German butter, including the cheapest varieties, and suggested price was not an indicator of quality in butter.
Kerrygold launched here in 1973 and, since then, has been a flag-bearer for Ireland in German fridges. With slick advertising, Kerrygold pitches itself as an unashamedly premium product in Germany: “The green isle’s gold”.
In the decades since, it has achieved the near-impossible: selling a premium-priced product to price-conscious German consumers.
Ms Schlei declined to speculate on whether the Stiftung Warentest slating would affect the market share of Kerrygold, already under pressure from Danish rivals Arla and no-name Irish butter, offered in discount supermarkets.
She said the company had no information about how the consumer organisation tested the butter, except that the purchase happened last November.
“We have the documentation from then and we have no doubts whatsoever about our hygiene standards,” she said. An external laboratory the company commissioned said the microbes discovered in the tested butter were not a health concern.
Stiftung Warentest was founded in 1964 as a consumer foundation to carry out independent tests of products and services. It receives an annual public grant of more than €5 million.