By Tunde Osho
The Head of a French dairy firm Lactalis Group said on Sunday that its company has recalled 12 million cases of powdered baby milk in 83 countries that may have been possibly contaminated with salmonella.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Lactalis Group, Emmanuel Besnier said that the firm would compensate victims of salmonella-tainted baby milk that has sickened 37 children in France, one in Spain and a suspected case in Greece. The CEO added that the recalls were underway in an interview with French Journal du Dimanche newspaper. He said that the recall involved the Picot, Milumel, Celia and Taranis brands of powdered baby milk, adding that no new cases have been reported since 8th December, a week after the recall was first announced.
“We are going to draw the lessons from this crisis and set out an even stricter hygiene framework, in collaboration with the authorities,” he said.
Already, hundreds of lawsuits have been filed against the group by families of children affected by the tainted milk powder.
Lactalis Group is one of the world’s largest dairy manufacturers, with annual sales of €17bn ($21bn). The firm has 246 production facilities in 47 countries and employs 15,000 in France alone.
A spokesperson for the group said that all countries affected had been informed in Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa. The UK, US and Australia are said not to be affected by the recall.
The company said it believes the contamination was caused by renovation at one of its French facilities – a Celia factory in Craon, France.
“Traces of salmonella bacteria were picked up on a broom and a tile near drying equipment at the Craon factory in August and again in November. However, no general alarm was raised because we had no element showing our products were affected”, Besnier said.
Salmonella is a bacterial infection that can cause severe diarrhea, stomach cramps, vomiting, and severe dehydration and can be life threatening, especially in children.
French Agriculture Minister said that products manufactured at the Celia factory will not be allowed into the market until all investigation is completed.