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Salmonella outbreaks in Europe traced to Belgian Kinder Surprise eggs

18:07 07/04/2022

Belgium’s Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC) is recalling several chocolate products that originated in a Ferrero factory in Arlon due to the presence of salmonella bacteria. 

The products include the Kinder Surprise (20g and 3x20g) with a minimum durability date (MDD) between 11/07/22 and 7/10/22; Kinder Surprise Maxi with a MDD between 10/08/22 and 10/09/22; Schoko Bons with a MDD between 10/08/22 and 10/09/22 and Kinder Mini Eggs with a MDD between 10/08/22 and 10/09/22. The list is still being updated and can be found in full on the FASFC website.

FASFC warns customers not to consume these products and to return them to the point of sale. Consumers with questions can contact them via their online form or by calling the number 0800/13.550.

“In recent weeks, various European health authorities have identified clusters of people suffering from salmonellosis, some of whom have had to be hospitalised,” said Jean-Sébastien Walhin, communications director for FASFC. “Our European contacts pointed to the Arlon production site as a likely source of contamination.”

Since 7 January, a total of 134 cases of salmonella contamination have been identified in seven European countries and the United Kingdom, which are “probably or definitely” linked to the factory in Arlon, De Standaard reports. Some people who have consumed the products ended up in a hospital with serious symptoms.

In 105 of the cases, the link with the factory is certain. For 26 Belgian cases, a link has yet to be confirmed.

“In Belgium, there are currently no confirmed cases linked to this outbreak. A number of suspected cases are being investigated in cooperation with the community health services and Sciensano,” FASFC said.

Salmonella is a bacterium that can cause salmonellosis, a common infection that can result in fever, abdominal cramps and diarrhoea within six to 72 hours of eating infected food. Young children, pregnant women, immunocompromised people and the elderly are more likely to develop symptoms. 

Investigation and criticism for company’s lack of communication

FASFC is currently conducting an investigation into the Luxembourg province factory and carrying out additional controls there. 

The agency levied criticism at Ferrero for its lack of communication: on the company’s website, they stated that “none of our marketed Kinder products tested positive for salmonella.”

“This is not good,” said Walhin, adding that FASFC has already received a thousand calls from consumers about the matter. “Ferrero's customers lack information and the consumer call centre is not working properly.”

Even journalists were having trouble reaching the company. But their French brand broke the silence only to reiterate that “none of our Kinder products put on the French market has tested positive for salmonella. We have not received any complaints from consumers. However, it should be noted that 15 of the 21 people infected in France claim to have eaten the recalled chocolates.”

Ferrero extended the list of products for recall from five on Monday to 13 on Thursday. The expiry date of some products was also brought forward, potentially indicating that the Salmonella problems have lasted longer than previously thought.

State secretary for consumer protection Eva De Bleeker (Open VLD) emphasised that customers can exchange the affected products or have them refunded at the point of sale or can ship them back for free. Ferrero has had to adapt its communication to reflect this.

“We are making sure that the recall is properly monitored and we are trying to speed it up,” said FASFC’s Jean-Sébastien Walhin.

“On the one hand, to protect consumers, we are calling on them not to eat products that may be contaminated, even if all the references do not necessarily contain traces of salmonella or at least not in quantities that could lead to symptoms. On the other hand, we are studying the management of the health risk and the self-checking system of Ferrero in Arlon.”

The agency is still in the midst of its inspection of the hygiene and traceability of production at the Belgian factory. 

“Our investigation is still ongoing. But we have good reason to believe that the contamination is specific to this production line in Arlon. This would exclude other factories of the chocolate group as well as ingredients from their suppliers.”

 

Written by Helen Lyons