Powdered baby milk recalled in 83 countries after salmonella scandal

An association representing victims says the authorities are underestimating the number of cases

An association representing victims says the authorities are underestimating the number of cases

French dairy giant Lactalis is recalling some 12 million tins of its powdered baby milk in 83 countries due to a salmonella outbreak, the company's CEO Emmanuel Besnier said Sunday.

"We must take account the scale of this operation: more than 12 million boxes are affected", he said, adding that distributors would no longer have to sort through the produce to find the contaminated powder.

"[Distributors] know that everything has to be removed from the shelves".

The tough measure reflects high-level frustration at the botched handling of the crisis after France's biggest supermarkets - including Carrefour, Auchan and Leclerc - this week said that some Lactalis products subject to recalls in December still found their way onto their shelves. Consumers in China, a fast-growing market for baby food and dairy products, are particularly sensitive to such scares after melamine-tainted baby milk led to the deaths of six children in 2008.

"I can not guarantee that right now there isn't a single tin of baby milk left on a shelf in a giant warehouse or in a pharmacy", Le Maire said.

Lawsuits have been filed by parents who say their children became unwell after drinking the formula.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said on January 5 that one infant in Spain had fallen ill with a salmonella infection linked to contaminated Lactalis baby milk and another case in Greece was thought to be related.

Another possible case is being investigated in Greece, French authorities said on Friday.

"There are complaints and there will be an investigation with which we will fully collaborate". "I think this (further recall) is the strongest guarantee we can give". Its products include Président butter, Société roquefort, and Galbani ricotta and mozzarella in Italy.

Two brands of powdered baby milk, Picot and Milumel, were recalled internationally after reports of children falling sick.

French investigative publication Le Canard Enchaine reported state inspectors had approved the Lactalis site in Craon, France, in September.

They failed to find the salmonella bacteria that had been detected by Lactalis's own tests in August and November, which were not reported to the authorities.

The company has said they believe the contamination was caused by renovation work at their Celia factory in Craon, in north-west France.