France’s Lactalis forced into new recall in baby milk scare

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

The move comes as the government seeks to contain reputational damage to France’s strategic agri-business industry in overseas markets. Three dozen children have fallen ill in France and at least one other in Spain.

After talks with Lactalis management Le Maire said the company would recall all infant formula milk products made at its Craon factory that were still in warehouses and on store shelves, regardless of the date of manufacture.

“The aim of this radical step is simple: to avoid delays, problems in sorting batches and the risk of human error,” Le Maire told a news conference on Friday.

In a later statement Lactalis confirmed the extended recall and pledged to find and eradicate the causes of the salmonella contamination.

Implementing the recall will be challenging. Privately owned Lactalis exports its products to dozens of countries across Europe, Africa and Asia.

The tough measure reflects high-level frustration at the botched handling of the crisis after France’s biggest supermarkets — including Carrefour, Auchan and Leclerc — this week said that some Lactalis products subject to recalls in December still found their way onto their shelves.