French retailers sold baby milk after salmonella recall

Baby food scandal hits France

Speaking from a press conference in Rome, Macron hit out at dairy giant Lactalis after major supermarkets acknowledged this week that millions of baby food products recalled in December over fears of salmonella contamination still made it onto French shelves. Three dozen children have fallen ill.

Seeking to mitigate any damage, Le Maire said the blame laid squarely on the shoulders of Lactalis, one of the world's largest dairies, and retailers after two recalls were issued for infant formula and other products.

"There has been unacceptable behaviour, which should be punished", he told a news conference.

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

The botched recall is particularly embarrassing for the government after President Emmanuel Macron pushed food exports during a state visit to China this week.

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Salmonella infections can be life-threatening, particularly for young children, and the recall risks damaging Lactalis in China.

The claim was rebuffed by Le Maire, who told French television: "If there had been flawless collaboration, I wouldn't have had to sign an order on December 9 demanding the recall of more than 600 shipments of baby milk". More than thirty babies fell ill after consuming the milk, although none died. "I think this (further recall) is the strongest guarantee we can give".

Lactalis Nutrition Santé recalled over 600 batches (more than 7,000 tonnes) of products manufactured at a factory in Craon from 15 February past year.

The company took internal recall procedures which led to the removal and destruction of more than 36,000 products but said the 52 products had "escaped the vigilance" of its teams.

A French judicial investigation was launched in December and consumer protection association UFC-Que Choisir said it had filed a lawsuit against Lactalis for alleged fraud.