Cadbury Schweppes is facing prosecution over its handling of the salmonella contamination that caused the company to recall more than one million chocolate bars last year.

Birmingham City Council, the local authority responsible for overseeing an investigation into the incident, has said it will prosecute Cadbury on three breaches of food safety regulations.

"The company placed products that were unsafe for human consumption on sale, failed to inform the authorities in a timely fashion when the salmonella contamination was detected and failed to have in place adequate HACCP principles," a spokesperson for the Council told just-food today (23 April).

HACCP, or Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, is a system designed to help companies identify potential food safety hazards.

According to Birmingham City Council, Cadbury was in breach of the UK's General Food Regulations, after placing unsafe ready to eat chocolate products on the market between 19 January and 10 March last year. Moreover, between 19 January and 18 June, Cadbury failed to inform the relevant authorities of the salmonella contamination.

The food safety body was also critical of Cadbury's failure to identify hazards from contaminated products, critical control points and appropriate corrective actions in line with HACCP principles.

Each offence carries a maximum penalty of an unlimited fine and could also lead to two years' imprisonment.

The low-level salmonella contamination was caused by a leaking water pipe at Cadbury's Marlbrook production plant on the outskirts of Birmingham. The recall itself cost the company around GBP30m (US$60m), hit sales at the UK confectioner by as much as GBP35m and reduced profits last year by up to GBP10m.

Cadbury has been summoned to appear before Birmingham Magistrates Court on 15 June.

Responding to the news in an emailed statement, Cadbury said: "We have fully cooperated with the authorities throughout their enquiries and we will examine the charges that have been brought. As there is now legal action pending, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further."