China was often pinpointed as one nation with a bad record of food contamination issues, but in the past few years the country’s top milk producers have made gigantic effort to upgrade their manufacturing operations, quality control and hygiene at workplaces.
The nightmare now seems to have shifted to first world country, France. In early December, French baby milk producer, Lactalis had ordered a major international product recall due to fears of salmonella contamination, following news that 26 children fell sick after consuming its products.
Company spokesperson Michel Nalet said nearly 7,000 tonnes of production may have been contaminated and the company is unsure how many more are still selling or already consumed.
Lactalis is one of the world's biggest producers of dairy products and it sells its baby milk in packets ranging from 350-950g which are marketed globally under brand names of Milumel, Picot and Celi.
The international recall has affected consumers in countries such as China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Britain and Sudan. In China, Celia-Laiterie De Craon, a subsidiary of Lactalis, with infant formula under the brand of ‘Celia’ had its registration suspended. In Malaysia, the Health Ministry had banned the import of Lactalis products with effect from 11 December, and prior to this date, Malaysia did not import any products made by the French company, Lactalis or its subsidiaries.
French authorities have also published a list online of all the different formulas that it said can no longer be marketed or exported. It urged parents already in possession of them to stop using them.
The suspected contamination took place at Lactalis' factory in northwestern France. The company said the recall covers all products made there since mid-February.
Lactalis apologised for the anxiety that it has caused and has expressed support for the families whose children have fallen ill. These children have recovered eventually and no one died from this incident. Salmonella infections can be life-threatening, especially for young children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems.
Lactalis is a family-owned company with global sales of Euro 17 billion (US$20 billion) in 2015.