French Government calls for global withdrawal of Lactalis formulas.

14.12.2017

It took almost ten days for the Government of France to react to the scandal of widespread contamination of powdered formula milks produced by the giant French dairy producer Lactalis. [1] 25 infants in France have become sick after being fed formulas contaminated by the dangerous bacteria Salmonella.[2]

On December 11 the French government finally issued an order for a mandatory withdrawal of over 600 batches, representing over 700 tonnes of potentially contaminated products. This means that all stocks of these products must be returned to the manufacturers and destroyed and that none must be consumed or exported. [3] The French Health Minister has confirmed that it is fairly rare that the government is obliged to take such ‘massive measures’. It has closed the Lactalis production facilities and demanded that the company takes ‘corrective measures’ before the factory can be re-opened.[4]

The list of all the products withdrawn by the French Ministry of Finance and the Economy includes over 20 countries, as well as France: UK, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, as well as other countries referred to as ‘Africa’ and ‘Asia’. The European Union RASFF (Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed) portal also lists Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Congo (Brazzaville), Gabon, Madagascar, Mali and Togo. [5]

The International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN),  the global citizens network that protects child health,  has been raising awareness of contaminated formulas for many years, knowing that contamination can occur along any part of the  production and distribution chain.  Because of the confusion about where the affected products have been exported to,  IBFAN is calling on its member groups to check whether batches are present in retail outlets.  Some have already been found in countries not specifically listed, such as Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, at the  Codex Alimentarius meeting in Berlin, the recommendations of the World Health Organisation (WHO) were being fiercely debated.  WHO has clear rules on the labelling and marketing of products intended for babies and the actions governments should take to protect child health and safety . The WHO/FAO Codex Commission sets global trading standards for foods and IBFAN has been working since before 1995 to bring Codex Standards into line with WHO recommendations.  Throughout the meeting,  the four-person French Government delegation,  three of whom represented baby food companies – supported the contention of the United States,  that it was not appropriate to refer to WHO policies.

Alison Linnecar, IBFAN’s spokesperson on contaminants:

“IBFAN has been calling for clear labelling that properly warns parents and carers about the inherent risks of powdered formulas. The UK is one of the few countries that requires products to carry instructions that the product should be mixed with water that has been boiled and left to cool to no less than 70 degrees Celsius.  WHO recommends that reconstitution with water at  this temperature will kill off  the majority of ​these ​commonly found bacteria​ which are heat resistant and thus require high temperatures to inactivate/kill them.” 

Patti Rundall,  IBFAN’s Global Advocacy spokesperson:
“Its so important that parents are fully informed about the inherent risks of these products – too many see the idealised packaging and health and nutrition claims and believe these formulas are almost as safe and nutritious as breastfeeding.  Governments must take action to stop this deception and do regular independent post-market surveillance and safety checks. Its no good relying on companies to self-monitor their activities.”

For more information contact:

Alison Linnecar, IBFAN global working group on chemical and microbiological contamination of infant feeding products  + 33 450 56 40 80,  for text messages: + 33 622 18 72 88
http://ibfan.org/infant-and-young-child-feeding-health-and-environmental-impacts

Dr. J P Dadhich MD (Paediatrics); FNNF; PG-DDN Director – Technical, BPNI, IBFAN Global Council; Sub-regional Representative – IBFAN South Asia,  +91-11-27312705; +91-11-27312706  jpdadhich@bpni.org   www.bpni.org

Patti Rundall,  Policy Director,  Baby Milk Action IBFAN UK  +44 7786 523493  prundall@babymilkaction.org   www.babymilkaction.org

For IBFAN websites with more information on contaminants:  CLICK HERE  and HERE

BBC World Service Business News   Click here

Notes

[1]  The  Lactalis Group, headquartered in Craon, Mayenne, France, is a dairy corporation owned by the Besnier Family.  It is the one of the  largest dairy products groups in the world with an  annual turnover of EUR 17 billion (2016) exporting globally.  Lactalis-owned brands are systematic Code violators.

[2] The Salmonella Agona bacteria can cause gastro-enteritis, septicaemia and even meningitis. It can multiply outside the gut and lodge in joints and thus cause secondary infections in articulations.  Lactalis says it does self-monitoring and inspection of  all batches. The French Ministry of Consumer Affairs and Repression of Fraud claims to make ‘regular checks’

[3] The list includes product names and batch reference numbers and can be found HERE

[5] See http://www.leparisien.fr/societe/laits-infantiles-contamines-bercy-etend-le-rappel-a-600-lots-10-12-2017-7444023.php

[5] EU RASFF Portal: CLICK HERE or  https://ec.europa.eu/food/safety/rasff/portal_en

Countries in the French reference list include the following, but the list uses abbreviations and thus needs further checking: Algeria, Bangladesh, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Georgia, Greece, Iraq, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Monaco, Morocco, Pakistan, Peru, Roumania, Serbia, Sudan, Taiwan, UK.  EU Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed gives the Risk Decision as ‘Serious’.

IBFAN/ ICDC’s global monitoring report, Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules 2017, shows that LACTALIS  is systematic violator of the International Code    Lactalis BTR 2017 Report   CLICK here for the full report of all the main companies and the free download of the Executive summary.

 

Reproduced with permission from IBFAN-ICDC   code@ibfan-icdc.org For the full report CLICK HERE

The Lactalis  website for one of its products states that CELIA Follow-on milk powder for infants may be reconstituted in a 13.5% solution in mineral water or boiled water. No mention that the mineral water is risky for babies or that water should be at 70 degrees C at the time of reconstitution. See: http://www.celia-nutrition.com/products/infant-formulas/celia-develop-2/
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