Baby Formula Company Lactalis Issues Global Recall After Salmonella Scare

Lactalis has issued a global recall for its leading baby formula products following reports of 26 salmonella cases in France. 

One of the world’s largest producers of dairy products, Lactalis is a major name on the baby formula market and the parent company of brands like Milumel, Picot and Celi. These formulas are sold in nations across the globe, including China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Britain, Sudan and France, the company’s home country.

However, in an announcement this past week, Lactalis issued a global product recall of its baby formula products. This comes after an earlier, limited product recall in early December after 20 French children under six years of age became ill. The company hoped that this action would be enough to limit the health scare, but additional cases have emerged since that time.

Given that Lactalis has been unable to pin down the extent of the contamination, a full product recall is now in effect.

The BBC reports:

Lactalis believes the salmonella outbreak can be traced to a tower used to dry out the milk powder at its factory in the town of Craon in northwest France, according to AFP.

All products made there since mid-February have been recalled and the company said precautionary measures have been taken to disinfect all of its machinery at the factory.

Those children who originally fell ill have since recovered and, at the time of Lactalis’s recall, no additional salmonella cases were known to exist within France or any other country where the baby formula is sold. That said, more cases could emerge as news of the recall spreads.

What is Salmonella?

Salmonella describes a family of bacteria that lives in the gut of many farm animal species. Without adequate precautions, the bacteria can infect meat, eggs, poultry and milk. Cross-contamination of vegetables and pulses may also occur at the production stage due to exposure to contaminated water, or when this produce is prepared or stored in the same areas as contaminated meat and dairy. Reptiles may also carry salmonella, and, in rare instances, dogs and cats can become infected.

Salmonella can affect anyone, but it is particularly serious for young children under the age of six, elderly people, and those who have a compromised immune system.

Symptoms generally manifest within 72 hours after exposure – often after eating contaminated food. Diarrhea, stomach cramps, vomiting and fever are all potential signs of an infection. Usually, these symptoms will be of moderate severity. And so long as a patient is sufficiently hydrated, they should not require hospitalization — though young children and sick adults may be hospitalized as a precautionary measure.

In most cases, symptoms will ease and then pass within five to seven days. Dehydration remains a major risk, as do health complications that result from fever. However, most people will make a full recovery from salmonella.

Will China ban formula imports?

While Lactalis issued an apology, stating that the company is ”sincerely sorry for the anxiety caused by the situation and expresses its compassion and support for the families whose children have fallen ill”, this suspected salmonella scare could do significant damage to the brand — particularly in China.

In 2008 investigators revealed that baby formula producers in China had been bulking up their powders. Formula products tainted with melamine, a toxic industrial compound, led to the deaths of six children and serious illness in 300,000 more. Since that time, the Chinese market has reacted swiftly to any concerns about baby formula contamination — even going so far as to halt imports from New Zealand during an ultimately unfounded contamination scare.

Even so, the Lactalis salmonella scare is very different from the deliberate negligence evident in the 2008 incident in China. Indeed, no new cases may emerge, and the contamination threat may prove to be minimal. But, at this juncture, the potential risk remains unknown, so French authorities and the company are acting to safeguard consumer health.

If you wish to view the products potentially affected by this recall, there is a full list here.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

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Mike R6 months ago

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