December 2017 – Lactalis scandal in France goes global
The scandal of powdered baby milk products contaminated by harmful bacteria erupted in France in December 2017 and rapidly went global.
Infant, follow-on and growing up milk powders were manufactured by the French company Lactalis at their manufacturing site in France which also produces powdered baby milks and cereals for export. Some batches were contaminated by Salmonella enterica serotype Agona which can cause serious illness in infants and young children, a vulnerable population.
In France 35 babies under 1 year of age fell sick after consuming the products. The French government mandated the withdrawal of potentially contaminated products, not only in France but also in 20 and then in 40 countries.
By January 2018 the withdrawals and seizures involved all powdered milk and cereal products manufactured by the Lactalis company in 83 countries, and from all pharmacies, supermarkets, hospitals and crèches.
The International Baby Food Action Network, IBFAN, is working with groups all over the world to ensure that governments fully inform their citizens and enforce and monitor strict controls on imports and sales of the incriminated products.
Since 2005, IBFAN has been campaigning for warnings on labels of powdered baby milks. New safety advice by WHO and FAO states that these products are not sterile and may be contaminated with pathogens that can cause serious illness. Extra precautions must be taken in preparation, storage and handling to reduce the risk. These Guidelines for infant formula are also relevant for powdered follow-on and growing up milks because these products are also included in the Lactalis withdrawals: http://www.who.int/foodsafety/document_centre/PIF_Bottle_en.pdf