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April 8, 2022updated 13 Apr 2022 7:46pm

Ferrero suspends Kinder operations at salmonella-hit plant in Belgium

Belgium’s food safety authority said it had withdrawn “authorisation” for the Ferrero plant to operate after “an in-depth investigation”.

By Simon Harvey

Ferrero has suspended operations at a plant in Belgium after the site was identified as the source of salmonella that sparked a recall of Kinder egg products.

More than 100 children across a host of European countries have contaminated the potentially fatal bacteria after consuming the kids’ chocolate treats, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Recalls have been initiated across Europe, as well as by respective food standards agencies in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and Singapore.

Italy-headquartered Ferrero, which also owns the Ferrero Rocher chocolate and Nutella spreads brands, had identified the source of the bacteria as coming from its factory in Arlon. The presence of salmonella had been detected on 15 December, the company said on 7 April, before the first infection case came to light in the UK on 7 January.

In an update last Friday (8 April), Ferrero said: “With immediate effect, the entire production of Kinder Surprise, Kinder Mini Eggs, Kinder Surprise Maxi 100g and Kinder Schokobons made in Arlon is being recalled.

“Ferrero acknowledges there were internal inefficiencies, creating delays in retrieving and sharing information in a timely manner. This impacted the speed and effectiveness of the investigations. The plant will only re-open once certified by the authorities.”

Belgium’s food safety authority said on Friday it had withdrawn “authorisation” for the Ferrero plant to operate after “an in-depth investigation”.

The company added only Kinder products made at Arlon are affected by the recall. The facility accounts for about 7% of total Kinder volumes annually, Ferrero confirmed. Owned by the family of the same name, the business reported a turnover of EUR12.7bn (US$13.7bn) in the year to 31 August.

In the 7 April statement, Ferrero noted the initial recall had “started in a precautionary way”.

The chocolate and Tic Tac sweets maker explained: “Within the framework of our analysis plan, the presence of salmonella was detected on the 15 of December. After a deep investigation, the point of origin was identified to be a filter at the outlet of two raw material tanks. Materials and finished products were blocked and not released. The matter is currently being investigated together with food safety authorities.”

Ferrero’s US division had joined the recall but the New Jersey-based unit said the measure was taken out of an “abundance of caution”.

No infections have been reported in the US, Ferrero said, as it withdrew the Kinder Happy Moments Chocolate Assortment and Kinder Mix Chocolate Treats from sale, adding the recall affects no other Kinder products made for the US market.

Ferrero in Canada and instigated a withdrawal last Wednesday “due to possible salmonella contamination”.

Cases have been identified in France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, according to the ECDC. The UK has been the most severely affected, with 63 confirmed cases as of 6 April, followed by France with 20 and Ireland ten. Across the European Union and European Economic Area, a total of 105 cases have been reported, with another 29 probable.

Ferrero added on Friday with the respect to the Arlon suspension: “This is the only and right decision to take to ensure the maximum level of food safety and eliminate the risk of further contamination.

“We deeply regret this matter. We want to sincerely apologise to all our consumers and business partners and thank the food safety authorities for their valuable guidance.”

News update, 13 April: Kinder egg recall: local public prosecutor opens probe

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