French baby milk maker Lactalis Groupe’s ongoing recall of thousands of products over fears of salmonella bacteria contamination in China is expected to hurt its brand reputation among Chinese consumers and have a negative impact on its market share in the country, according to industry experts.
By: Huang Mingrui
The French company, one of the world’s largest dairy groups, said it was warned by health authorities in France that 26 infants had become sick since Dec 1. As a result, Lactalis decided to recall products produced since Feb 15.
China is among the countries around the world where customers are affected by the recall, according to a list published on the French health ministry’s website.
According to Lactalis’ China unit, the company will recall around six batches of Celia milk formula that have been sold in the Chinese market, involving 3,208 cartons of the product. Another six batches of the product under recall are in the storage and will be destroyed.
“But we are sure that these recalled products were not infected by the salmonella bacteria and the move is only a precautionary one,” according to the company’s statement.
The other two brands involved－Ofmom and Stolle, have also conducted recalls. At present, 12 batches of Ofmom and six batches of Stolle to be recalled are in storage and will not be distributed to consumers.
“Parents in China should stop consuming the products made since mid-February and return them to the stores to exchange them or get a refund,” said the company.
The Certification and Accreditation Administration of China has annulled the registration of Celia Laiterie Decrao, the subsidiary of Lactalis.
Song Liang, an independent dairy analyst, said the incident reveals the loopholes in manufacturing and supervision of French dairy producers as a result of the rapid expansion of their manufacturing capacity in recent years. “The recall incident will jeopardize the brand reputation of French formula milk producers in the Chinese market,” said Song.
The symptoms of salmonella infection include abdominal cramps, diarrhea and fever. Most people recover without treatment. The company said a possible source of the outbreak has been identified in a tower used to dry the milk at a production site. Exceptional cleaning and disinfection measures are being taken before production is restarted.