French company charged for negligence over baby milk Salmonella outbreak
French prosecutors brought criminal charges against dairy company Lactalis for serious fraud, involuntarily bodily harm and a failure to carry out product withdrawals and recalls related to a 2018 Salmonella-contaminated powdered formula milk scandal.
Symptoms of Salmonella (which include diarrhea, stomach cramps, fever, nausea and vomiting) can last a few days to a week in healthy adults, however, the infection can be serious in very young children, old people, and patients with weakened immune system.
At the end of 2017, dozens of French babies were diagnosed with Salmonella poisoning after being fed with Lactalis milk products. Several cases were also reported in Spain and Greece, with Lactalis admitting at the time that its powdered milk in more than 80 other countries was affected.
In 2018, Lactalis pulled more than 12 million packages of powdered milk from the shelves, and it claimed the contamination had been caused by work done at the factory in the first half of 2017. However, France's leading bacteriology body, the Institut Pasteur, found the bacteria had been present in the site's production since 2005.
Several hundred people filed lawsuits against Lactalis, mostly for fraud, and investigators took dozens of witness statements.
A 2022 study of the case submitted to investigators found Lactalis had shown a "lack of vigilance, or even blindness" concerning repeated signs that its production had become unsafe.
Now, prosecutors accuse Lactalis of failing to promptly carry out a recall to limit the damage, and said they had identified several issues in its production chain leading to the contamination in the first place.
Lactalis declared it is going to cooperate with the investigation.
A spokesperson for NGO Foodwatch, Ingrid Kragl, said she hoped for "exemplary sanctions" that would end what she called a "climate of impunity" for food companies.