Production has been halted in the world’s biggest chocolate plant In Belgium by an outbreak of Salmonella.
Swiss giant Barry Callebaut’s plant in the Belgian town of Wieze, immediately stopped exporting products after the dangerous bacteria was found, the firm said today.
The factory produces liquid chocolate in wholesale batches for 73 clients, such as Hershey, Mondelez, Nestle and Unilever.
There have been no reports so far of any chocolate consumers infected by the salmonella, which causes salmonellosis, a disease that cause diarrhoea and fever.
It identified lecithin, an emulsifier routinely used in making chocolates, as the source of the contamination.
‘All products manufactured since the test have been blocked,’ spokesman Korneel Warlop said.
‘Barry Callebaut is currently contacting all customers who may have received contaminated products. Chocolate production in Wieze remains suspended until further notice.’
Most of the products discovered to be contaminated are still on the site, and the company does not sell products directly to consumers so there is no reason to believe contaminated goods have yet made it onto shop shelves.
But the firm has contacted all its clients and asked them not to ship any products they have made with chocolate made since June 25.
‘Food safety is of the utmost importance for Barry Callebaut and this contamination is quite exceptional. We have a well-defined food safety charter and procedures,’ the firm said.
Belgium’s food safety agency AFSCA has been informed and a spokesman told AFP it had opened an investigation.
An AFSCA spokesman said investigators would ‘gather all the information in order to trace the contamination’.
The company is world number one in the sector, its annual sales amounted to 2.2 million tonnes during the 2020-2021 financial year.
Over the past financial year, the group, which has a head office is in Zurich, generated a net profit of 384.5 million Swiss francs ($402 million) for 7.2 billion francs in turnover.
The group employs more than 13,000 people, has more than 60 production sites worldwide.
The scare comes a few weeks after a case of chocolates contaminated with salmonella in the Ferrero factory in Arlon in southern Belgium manufacturing Kinder chocolates.
Belgian health authorities said on June 17 that they had given the green light to restart the Italian giant’s factory for a three-month test period.