Macron condemns dairy giant Lactalis over tainted baby food

Emmanuel Besnier France's reclusive dairy billionaire

Four of France's largest supermarket chains have admitted to stocking infant formula products despite concerns they were contaminated with salmonella.

France's Minister of Agriculture Stephan Traver spoke of a "major malfunction" in the process of recalling milk-based Lactalis products today after distributors had announced that they had sold some of the products that should have been removed from shelves because of Salmonella contamination.

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

"The Greek case has not, but the signs are there", he said, adding that so far only phenotype testing had been carried out to compare the bacteria strain of the Lactalis product with the strain in the child.

Lactalis spokesperson Michel Nalet, during a Thursday press conference, offered no clear explanation for what went wrong, but said that the scale of the recall was unprecedented in the dairy industry and that the group was investigating. "It has led to unacceptable behaviour that needs to be punished".

"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 worldwide exhibition of agricultural products expected to be held by the end of February, every year, in Paris.

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The recall covers a range of powdered milk marketed globally under the Milumel, Picot and Celi brands, and affects products shipped outside of France.

The lapse came to light when about 35 infants fed Lactalis milk fell ill. Officials from the national anti-fraud bureau swooped on the factory on December 2 and found the assembly line where milk is transformed into powder to be contaminated.

Some of the retailers concerned have accepted joint responsibility, but it's still not clear how the recall was bungled.

Salmonella symptoms include diarrhoea, fever, vomiting and abdominal pain, and are extremely risky for infants.

Lactalis is under investigation over the affair.

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