The French Government calls Lactalis for contaminated baby milk

Ⓒ AFP – Damien Meyer – | Logo of the French group Lactalis at its plant in Laval, in western France, on January 12, 2018

The president of the Lactalis group, Emmanuel Besnier, will report this Friday to the French Minister of Economy, Bruno Le Maire, on the failures in the recall of milk for infants potentially contaminated with Salmonella.

“If Lactalis had been more responsible (…) we would not be” facing this problem, said the minister on Friday, who estimated that the French giant of dairy products “failed seriously.”

Lactalis, one of the largest manufacturers of dairy products in the world, announced in December the withdrawal of milk powder jars and other products for children made at its plant in Craon, in northwestern France, potentially contaminated with salmonella bacteria.

But several supermarkets admitted this week that they continued selling the products in question, despite the call of Lactalis to remove them from the market.

Emmanuel Besnier, who is summoned at 2:15 p.m. (1:15 p.m.) at the Ministry of Economy, has not yet made a public statement about the case. The government, which is also beginning to be accused in this case, expects it to do so soon. “It’s what our citizens expect,” Agriculture Minister Stéphane Travert said on Friday.

The retailers were summoned the day before by Le Maire. But they refuse to be the only culprits. The director of the Leclerc supermarkets, Michel-Edouard Leclerc, estimated on Thursday that there was a “systematic and not only sectoral deficiency” and also accused the “State services” of the problem.

Several political and union leaders also criticized the State, denouncing the reduction of the budget and personnel of the service in charge of the repression of fraud, the DGCCRF.

The controls made it possible to find boxes of milk potentially contaminated with Salmonella in supermarkets, pharmacies, nurseries and hospitals in France.

Salmonella contamination at the Lactalis milk factory in Caros was announced in December. But the group had identified the presence of this bacterium in August and November, but only in the factory and not in its products.

“Our hypothesis is that Salmonella was present and that there was a resurgence during work that we carried out during the first half of the year,” the group’s spokesman, Michel Nalet, told the press on Thursday.

On January 9, the health authorities counted 35 babies who had consumed Lactalis infant milk with salmonellosis. Eighteen were hospitalized, but all were already discharged, according to the same source.

Salmonella is a bacterial type that can cause food poisoning that can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea, as well as more serious infections. The risk is greater for children and the elderly.

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