Baby milk scare deepens in France

Baby milk scare deepens in France

French dairy group Lactalis is widening a product recall to cover all baby milk manufactured by a factory at the centre of a salmonella contamination, Finance minister Bruno Le Maire said on Friday.

The admissions by Carrefour (CARR.PA), Leclerc, Auchan and Systeme U deepened a salmonella health scare that began in early December when France's consumer protection agency ordered the halt to sales and a global recall of products from a factory in northwest France. The government is now hoping to limit reputational damage. Three dozen children are thought to have fallen ill.

The botched recall is particularly embarrassing for the government after President Emmanuel Macron pushed food exports during a state visit to China this week. "This matter is serious, it has led to unacceptable behavior which must be punished".

Le Maire fired harsh criticism against Lactalis before the press conference, calling it a "failing company". The health scare in China caused distrust in locally produced infant formula and benefited foreign suppliers such as Nestle, Danone and Lactalis.

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The baby products were still available in hospitals, day cares, pharmacies, and leading supermarkets well after last month's recall.

Four of France's largest supermarket chains have admitted to stocking infant formula products despite concerns they were contaminated with salmonella.

Lactalis spokesperson Michel Nalet, during a Thursday press conference, offered no clear explanation for what went wrong, but said that the scale of the recall was unprecedented in the dairy industry and that the group was investigating.

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

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