French supermarkets admit to selling salmonella contaminated Lactalis products after recall

Employees walk in front of the entrance of the French dairy group Lactalis headquarters in Laval western France

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire on Thursday said the reputation of France's agri-business industry risked being hurt after supermarkets admitted they had failed to remove potentially contaminated baby food products and deepened a health scare. France's consumer protection agency ordered a halt to sales of products from the site. Three dozen children have fallen ill.

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

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

That scandal caused distrust in locally produced infant formula and benefited foreign suppliers such as Nestle, Danone and Lactalis.

France is one of the major exporters of food, such as wine and dairy products.

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"This is a major malfunction in the process of recall by the managers, to whom responsibility lies", the minister said in the margins of a press conference that he presented for the presentation of the global exhibition of agricultural products expected to be held by the end of February, every year, in Paris. On Thursday, Lactalis announced the temporary lay off of 250 workers.

But even after that, the products were still available at supermarkets and other retailers in the country.

On Thursday, a spokesman for Lactalis, Michel Nalet, apologised once again to parents, adding that the firm was working "in ideal collaboration" with French officials to contain the outbreak.

The DGCCRF issued a first recall on December 10 after Lactalis discovered salmonella contamination at its Craon factory, halting the sale of several baby food products made there.

A judicial investigation is taking place in France over the contamination and a group of French parents of affected infants said on Friday that they were considering a joint lawsuit.

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