French Retailers Sold Baby Food Despite Salmonella Recall
France’s finance minister has threatened to act after several large retailers admitted they failed to clear their shelves of baby products despite a ban following a food poisoning scare.
Bruno Le Maire said the scandal centred around Lactalis, the French dairy group, had led to “unacceptable” conduct by companies that put consumers and the reputation of French agriculture at risk.
“This case is serious. It has given rise to unacceptable behaviour that will have to be punished,” said Mr Le Maire.
Emmanuel Macron, the French president, who was in Italy, also said those responsible faced punishment.
The comments came after Carrefour, the retailer, said late on Wednesday that it sold more than 430 Lactalis products that were supposed to be covered by a recall. Leclerc, another retailer, said this week that it had sold almost 1,000 of the same products.
Lactalis ordered a global product recall in December following 25 salmonella cases in children. The French government subsequently imposed a ban on some formula milk and baby food.
The recall covered hundreds of baby milk powder products marketed globally under the Celia, Milumel and Picot brands.
Mr Le Maire said 2,500 points of sale had been checked for faulty products since the recall and 91 had been found still to be selling them. “The urgency is the removal of all contaminated batches,” he said.
Stephane Travers, the agriculture minister, called it a “major dysfunction in the withdrawal and recall procedure by operators”.
Mr Le Maire said the reputation of French agri-business could be put in jeopardy and that overseas markets needed to be reassured.
Michel-Edouard Leclerc, Leclerc’s chief executive, acknowledged the failure to prevent sales of affected products in an interview this week with Le Parisien. “This failure is unacceptable. We accept this failing and we apologise to parents,” he said.
Mr LeMaire said he would meet Lactalis management on Friday.
Family-owned Lactalis, one of the world’s biggest dairy producers, said it believed the contamination happened at one of its French drying towers in early May.
Despite the public censure, analysts were sceptical the government’s intervention would have a significant impact on the retailers. “Since it’s affecting everybody, it’s affecting nobody,” said one sector specialist speaking on condition of anonymity.
“I wouldn’t expect the government’s intervention to have any meaningful impact. He [Mr Le Maire] has to do this as there is a backlash and consumers are unhappy. The government has to blame the retailers.”
Source : https://www.ft.com/content/3f24b0a6-f6ce-11e7-8715-e94187b3017e482