Belgian health authorities suspend Ferrero factory over Salmonella links
Belgian health authorities have confirmed that production at Ferrero’s confectionery plant at Arlon has been ordered to be suspended amid salmonella incidents reportedly linked to Kinder ranges from the factory, reports Neill Barston.
The country’s Federal agency for the safety of the food chain (FASFC) said it had withdrawn authorisation for manufacturing at the facility, as well as recalling all Kinder items produced at the site, as retail stores ramp up key Easter activity.
After initial findings from an investigation resulted in a product recall from UK stores, there have been similar cases in several European countries, as well as the US, leading to a voluntary recall from Ferrero, which apologised over the incidents, saying that it took health and safety matters particularly seriously, confirming the suspension of operations at its Arlon site, stating that it ‘deeply regretted’ the matter.
In a statement on its decision, the Belgian federal health agency said: “Based on the investigations carried out by the FASFC and the finding in recent hours that the company is unable to provide complete information for this investigation, the Agency is withdrawing the authorisation of the Arlon plant. At the same time, all products of the Kinder range produced at Ferrero Arlon are being recalled.
“This recall extension includes all ‘Kinder Surprise’, ‘Kinder Surprise Maxi’, ‘Kinder Mini Eggs’ & ‘Schoko Vouchers’ products regardless of lot number or expiration date . The FASFC also asks the distribution companies to remove these products from their shelves.
The agency noted that several cases of Salmonella have been reported in Europe for several weeks. At the end of March, adding that a link was suspected between these infections and the Ferrero factory in Arlon, which was later confirmed.
Concluding, the agency added: “On the basis of the findings and in the absence of complete information provided to us by Ferrero, the FASFC withdrew the authorisation of Ferrero’s production site in Arlon. The FASFC closely follows all steps taken by Ferrero and will only allow the reopening of the factory if Ferrero can provide the necessary guarantees that it complies with the rules and regulations for food safety.
“We call on consumers not to consume the above-mentioned products, regardless of the lot number and expiry date. The FASFC requires that Ferrero should improve its customer relations. The FASFC also asks the distribution companies to remove these products from their shelves.”
It added that the protection of consumers was the most important priority for food companies, and noted that the investigation at Ferrero was ongoing.
David Clarinval, Belgium’s Secretary of Agriculture, added: “I am satisfied with the work that the FASFC has done in recent days. In light of the situation, it has been decided to withdraw the authorisation of the Ferrero plant in Arlon, in order to provide clarity. Such a decision is never taken lightly, but the current circumstances make it necessary. The food safety of our citizens should never be neglected.”
The situation has also been investigated by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, which established the scale of the issue. In a statement on the incidents, it said that it “continues to monitor the situation and encourages Member States to be alert for new cases and investigate human infections with strains that have multi-drug resistance profiles. Further sequencing of such isolates is recommended, and ECDC offers sequencing support for countries with limited or no genome-sequencing capacity.”
It concluded: “In addition, ECDC further encourages public health authorities to cooperate closely with food safety authorities in the countries affected.
“As of 8 April 2022, 150 cases (119 confirmed and 31 probable) have been reported in nine EU/EEA countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, and Sweden) and the UK. The first case had the sampling date 21 December 2021 in the UK.”
Confectionery Production has approached Ferrero for a statement on the situation, and the business confirmed it has complied with the health authority’s investigations.
The company said: “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.
“Only Kinder products manufactured in Arlon, Belgium, are impacted by this recall. The Arlon plant accounts for around 7% of total volumes of Kinder products manufactured globally on a yearly basis. Local solutions will be implemented to assist consumers with the recall.
“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.
“Food safety, quality and consumer care have been at the heart of Ferrero since the company was founded. This serious event goes to the core of what we stand for and we will take every step necessary to preserve the full trust and confidence of our consumers.”