French supermarkets kept milk at risk of salmonella on shelves

Salmonella scandal casts harsh light on France's secretive dairy giant

France's finance minister has threatened to levy sanctions after major supermarkets admitted selling possibly contaminated baby milk.

The market chains that sold Lactalis products despite general recall included Intermarche, Auchan, Cora, Carrefour, Super U, Hyper U and E. Leclerc.

The Systeme-U, Auchan, and Casino retail giants also sold the products.

Hypermarket chain Casino, which also owns the Franprix and Geant franchises, said it had sold a total of 363 affected products.

He said no date to lift the ban could be set "while we have not exactly and precisely identified the source of the contamination, and before it has not been clearly identified and removed", Travert said.

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.

"If there had been a little more responsibility from the Lactalis side, this situation would not occur", he said.

The company took internal recall procedures which led to the removal and destruction of more than 36,000 products but said the 52 products had "escaped the vigilance" of its teams.

Lactalis - whose Picot, Milumel and Taranis brands were affected by the recall - has stopped operations at a factory in northwestern France in order to try and eliminate the risk to the public.

The lapse came to light when about 35 infants fed Lactalis milk fell ill.

Le Maire said he would meet French supermarket operators later on Thursday and meet Lactalis management on Friday to discuss the matter.

It added three product recalls, on different lots, were launched on 2, 10 and 21 December. Earlier today, it announced that it was temporarily laying off 250 of the 327 staff employed at the site in Craon.

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

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