It can hardly get any worse for sweets manufacturers: salmonella, plant shutdowns – and all this a week before Easter.
Ferrero had been aware of a problem at a Belgian factory for several months. But now the authorities have withdrawn the emergency brake and revoked the license. The grievances seem to have been known for months. The Common Good Common Foundation said in a Saturday broadcast that it is studying legal steps.
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Also in Austria, select batches of baby products are being pulled or removed from supermarket shelves as a precaution. A detailed list of affected products can be found on the AGES website. The Common Good Foundation Comun, with its citizens oekoreich and Lieferkettengesetz initiative, is now calling for legal consequences: “It cannot be the case that a multibillion dollar company is likely hiding a serious problem for months and gets away with it. This case illustrates why there must finally be options for liability. We are now We are considering legal action against the group, even if we aren’t very optimistic,” said Veronica Bohrn-Mina, spokeswoman for the Citizens Initiative for Supply Chain Law and president of the Comun Foundation for the Public Good. She stated that current laws are too weak to protect consumers from corporate machinations. “Ferrero is not a blank slate here either. Companies like this make billions of dollars in profits, but they take no responsibility for their misdeeds. This must end now,” Bohren Mina demanded.
She said on the radio broadcast, if the legal examination, to which a famous lawyer was assigned, came to the conclusion that there are no possibilities for legal action, then a similar change in the law will be sought. The Foundation for the Public Welfare is already in touch with Minister of Justice Alma Zadek (the Greens) and will organize a roundtable on supply chain law in May as part of the Austrian Consumer Dialogues.
As early as December 15, Ferrero learned of a case of salmonella at the plant in Arlon, Belgium, according to a statement from Ferrero France in Luxembourg. Accordingly, salmonella was found there in a sieve at the exit of two tanks for raw materials. Then the products made from it were discontinued. Ferrero said the filter has been replaced and controls have been increased on work in progress and finished products.
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On Friday, investigations launched by the food authorities finally reached their initial climax. The confectionery giant has to stop production at the factory in Belgium, which has been a focus for days, for now. The Afsca supervisory body has announced that it will revoke the production license for the plant as a result of the investigations. According to the statement, Ferrero did not provide enough information in the investigation. In the midst of important Easter activity, Ferrero now has to pull all products 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 are all affected. The product Kinder Mix Easter Gift Bag, which was presented in some German test stores, is also affected by the recall process. Afsca has also asked all distributors to withdraw affected products from retail outlets. The Arlon factory may only reopen after all food safety rules and requirements have been met.
On Friday afternoon, Ferrero spoke again and admitted mistakes in dealing with some product recalls. The Italian company remains ambiguous about the reasons for the month-long gap between the discovery of the Salmonella case in Arlon and the recalls in April: “internal inefficiencies” ensured “delays occurred in recoveries and in the exchange of information”. Therefore, the investigations into the case were not conducted with the necessary speed and efficiency, the statement said.
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Since the beginning of the week, the company has been recalling products from its Children’s Confectionery range in several countries after reports of several cases of salmonella being linked to Arlon factory products. The company had initially confirmed that the recalls were purely precautionary measures.
On Thursday, Ferrero said it was working with food and health authorities in Europe, and obtained new data showing a match between salmonella cases reported in Europe and its Arlon plant.
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.”
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The European Union Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Council for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) have already begun investigations. Authorities reported 105 confirmed cases of salmonella and 29 suspected cases on Wednesday, mostly in children under the age of 10. Some chocolate products have been identified as a potential route of infection.
According to the German Consumer Advice Center, salmonella appears within a few days after having diarrhea and abdominal pain. Sometimes vomiting and mild fever can occur. In healthy people, symptoms usually subside after a few days. However, in some cases, a dangerous development of the disease can occur, especially in infants, young children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems.