Ferrero Group: Authorities clarify origin of salmonellosis

Parma / IT. (eb) Chocolate products manufactured by Ferrero Group at its Belgian facility have been identified as the source of a transnational salmonella outbreak. That’s the conclusion about what happened at the Arlon, Belgium, plant by the European Food Safety Authority EFSA and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control ECDC.

As of 08 April 2022, 150 confirmed and probable cases of monophasic Salmonella Typhimurium have been reported in nine EU or EEA countries, namely Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden, and the United Kingdom. The first case occurred in the United Kingdom on December 21, 2021, according to the research. The infections occurred mainly in children younger than 10 years.

On December 15, 2021, Salmonella Typhimurium was discovered in a buttermilk container at Ferrero Group’s Belgian facility during company inspections. The Arlon plant then took some hygiene measures and increased sampling and testing of products and the processing environment. Following the negative salmonella finding, the subsidiary distributed the chocolate products throughout Europe and worldwide. At the end of March 2022, when the sequencing data were available, scientists from Parma (IT) and Solna (SE) linked the human cases to the Belgium operation through advanced molecular typing techniques.

As of April 02, 2022, national competent authorities began issuing health warnings, and Ferrero issued a voluntary recall of certain products and batches in several countries. On 08 April 2022, the Belgian Food Safety Authority withdrew the company’s approval for production following official controls. In addition, the company recalled all batches of all products manufactured in the Belgian facility, regardless of their batch number or expiration date.

According to EFSA and ECDC experts, further investigation is needed to determine the cause, timing and possible factors for the contamination, including evaluation of possible further use of contaminated raw materials in other processing plants. Thus, the events surrounding salmonellosis will continue to run circles around it.

Because molecular typing is not routinely performed in all countries, some cases may have gone undetected. Any further questions related to ongoing product recalls and consumer advice should be directed to national food safety authorities.

Ferrero acknowledges on 08 April 2022 that there were internal inefficiencies at the Arlon plant that led to delays in obtaining and sharing information in a timely manner. This had a (negative) impact on the speed and effectiveness of investigations during the course of the proceedings. The Belgian plant will not reopen until cleared by the authorities.

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