French dairy group Lactalis last week enacted its third and widest-ranging recall in a month as it seeks to recover all infant formula that may be tainted with Salmonella. Meanwhile, French authorities opened a criminal investigation into the cause of the contamination at the company's Craon, France, plant.
Although Lactalis has been busy acquiring American yogurt companies of late – Stonyfield Farm last July and Siggi's in January – it's unlikely any of the company's infant formula is available in the U.S.; the company hasn't cracked this market yet.
The company does export baby food products to 83 countries across Europe, Africa and Asia. China has become a big market for imported formula after its own dairies were found to be using melamine in baby formula in 2008, which led to the deaths of six children.
A USA Today report said 35 children were stricken in France, one in Spain and another was suspected in Greece. None of the news reports we saw noted any fatalities nor talked of the severity of the illnesses.
The recalls began in December after infants in France became sick with salmonella infection. Lactalis believes the contamination was caused by a sanitation problem in a milk dryer at the Craon plant.
Lactalis Chief Executive Emmanuel Besnier told the weekly Journal du Dimanche his family company, one of the world’s biggest dairies, would “pay damages to every family which has suffered a prejudice,” the Reuters news service reported. Salmonella infections can be life-threatening, and the families of the children who have fallen sick in France as a result of the contaminated baby milk have announced a raft of lawsuits.
Lactalis widened a product recall to cover all infant formula made at its Craon plan, regardless of the manufacture date. The health scare intensified last week, Reuters reported, after France’s biggest retailers including Carrefour, Auchan and Leclerc admitted products recalled in December had still found their way onto shelves. Some 12 million canisters of formula have been recalled.
The Craon plant is likely to remain closed for several months.