March 17, 2018

French retailers sold baby milk after salmonella recall

14 January 2018, 12:36 | Austin Hogan

Employees walk in front of the entrance of the French dairy group Lactalis headquarters in Laval western France

Employees walk in front of the entrance of the French dairy group Lactalis headquarters in Laval western France

The move comes as the government seeks to contain reputational damage to France's strategic agri-business industry in overseas markets.

Carrefour, E.Leclerc, Auchan and Systéme U all continued to offer Lactalis baby milk after a recall had been issued last December. Over 30 children have fallen ill and the crisis deepened this week. Consumers in China, a fast-growing market for baby food and dairy products, are particularly sensitive to such scares after melamine-tainted baby milk led to the deaths of six children in 2008.

Privately-held Lactalis, which has annual sales of around 17 billion euros ($20 billion), addressed the salmonella contamination by halting operations at the factory where it started, and on Thursday announced the temporary layoff of 250 workers. A further 2,500 checks will be carried out from next week.

"We have to win back the trust of our customers", he said. "The state, on the 9th of December, stepped in for a company which failed in its actions and which, I re-emphasize, bears the sole responsibility for the quality and safety of the products on sale", he said.

Dairy giant Lactalis will extend a product recall to all baby food produced in its factory hit by a contamination scandal, French Minister of Economy Bruno Le Maire said on Friday.

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But even after that, the products were still available at supermarkets and other retailers in the country.

Desouches claimed the recall was complex and rejected the suggestion that Systéme U had taken too long to respond.

At a news conference on Thursday, Lactalis apologized and pledged to do its utmost to determine the cause of the problem.

A judicial investigation is taking place in France over the contamination and a group of French parents of affected infants said on Friday that they were considering a joint lawsuit.

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