Due to cases of salmonella in several countries, confectionery giant Ferrero has to stop production at a factory in Belgium for the time being. Afsca’s supervisory body announced on Friday that it would revoke the production license for the Arlon plant as a result of investigations.
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According to the statement, Ferrero did not provide enough information in the investigation. In the middle of important Easter work, all products must be withdrawn from the factory, regardless of their production date.
According to the Afsca announcement, all Kinder Surprise, Kinder Mini Eggs, Kinder Surprise Maxi and Schoko-Bons made in Arlon were all affected. Afsca has also required all distributors to withdraw related products from retail outlets.
The Arlon factory may only reopen after all food safety rules and requirements have been met.
First case in December
As early as December, Ferrero learned of a case of salmonella at the plant that had been of interest to food authorities for several days. This stems from a connection from Ferrero France in Luxembourg.
According to the announcement, on December 15, salmonella was discovered in a refinery at the exit of two raw material tanks at the Arlon site. Then the products made from it were discontinued. Ferrero said the filter has been replaced and controls for work-in-progress and finished products have been increased.
The announcement does not explain why Ferrero was not recalling products already in circulation at the time. In the past few days, the company has pulled products from its children’s candy line in several countries — now also in the United States, according to the company’s announcement published by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday.
The German market has also been affected by recalls in the past few days, including a selection of surprise baby eggs and chocolate cakes for children as well as some Easter items.
The company had previously confirmed that the withdrawals were purely precautionary measures. Although none of the baby products have tested positive for salmonella, Ferrero takes it seriously, “because consumer protection is our top priority,” as it recently stated. But even the mere suspicion of salmonella infection can leave its mark on supermarket shelves — especially since the Easter business is considered profitable for candy manufacturers.
There are withdrawals all over the world
Italian group Ferrero recalled baby products in several European countries on Tuesday. Certain batches were affected, they were made at a factory in Arlon, Belgium and distributed in France, Belgium, Great Britain, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands. Ferrero said it was working with authorities on a “possible link to reported cases of salmonella” in chocolate made in Belgium. It is a “voluntary” recall of a number of products made in Belgium.
According to the consumer watchdog Foodwatch, the European Union Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Union Health Authority (ECDC) have so far confirmed 105 cases of salmonella and 29 suspected cases, most of them in children. Authorities quoted Foodwatch as saying that an unusually large number of children were taken to hospital, some with severe symptoms such as bloody diarrhoea.
According to Ferrero, so far no cases of diarrhea have been recorded in Germany. Ferrero also mentions several baby products in Australia and Israel as a strict precaution. However, the local health ministry announced on Wednesday that there are no reports of salmonella contamination in Israel yet.
In Belgium, the Food Chain Safety Authority (FASFC) has called on consumers not to consume these products “following a series of salmonella outbreaks reported in various EU member states” as baby products have been recalled in the US.
Foodwatch: Consumers are warned too late
However, consumer organization Foodwatch has been highly critical of the company. “If such an error occurs, residents should be warned immediately,” Andreas Winkler of Foodwatch said Friday.
In his opinion, personal responsibility and self-monitoring by manufacturers is not enough, “transparency obligations of the authorities are necessary so that cases like Ferrero are made public immediately.”
Both Ferrero and monitoring authorities have known about the salmonella discoveries since December – but the public summons didn’t come until about five months later. In addition, the cause of salmonella infection remains unclear.
Foodwatch has called on Ferrero and the responsible food authorities in Germany to provide clarification. A Foodwatch spokesperson said: “How can potentially dangerous products leave the factory and be sold for months?” Andrew Winkler. “The Ferrero case shows that self-monitoring and the responsibility of manufacturers are not enough. Food manufacturers must be legally bound to warn consumers immediately and clearly on all channels,” Winkler demanded. (with AFP, dpa)