Ferrero’s confectionery plant in Belgium that has been linked to a large Salmonella outbreak could reopen next month.
Belgian authorities stopped production at the facility in Arlon in early April. Meetings have been held between Ferrero officials, a worker’s union and the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC) on what conditions need to be met before production can resume.
Cleaning in the factory is ongoing and any restart is likely to require a test period before products are sent to market to ensure there is no contamination.
Updated patient numbers
More than 200 people are affected across Europe along with one patient in the United States. Most national agencies have not given recent updates on how many are ill but the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said this past week that 101 cases were linked to the monophasic Salmonella typhimurium outbreak, with the majority being children younger than 5 years old.
Santé publique France reported that 81 people were sick with a median age of 4. This includes 42 girls and 39 boys with 29 of them being hospitalized.
Patients have also been reported in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden. A total of 49 of 116 cases were hospitalized and 88 of 101 interviewed sick people in 10 countries reported eating various Ferrero chocolate products.
The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control and European Food Safety Authority are updating an outbreak assessment published in April, which is expected on May 18.
Recalled items still on sale
Meanwhile, Food Standards Scotland (FSS) has echoed an earlier warning by the Food Standards Agency that potentially contaminated chocolate produced by Ferrero could still be on sale.
Some products, intended for the European market only and which have already been recalled by Ferrero in Europe, were found in the UK and a recall notice has been extended.
FSS said investigations by local authorities found a “substantial” number of businesses with products that were recalled in April still available for sale.
Stuart McAdam, FSS head of incidents, urged small businesses to ensure that recalled Kinder products are removed.
“Investigations have found that some products previously recalled remain on retailer shelves. In addition, products intended for the European market only, that have been recalled by Ferrero in Europe, have been imported into the UK by UK importers not linked to Ferrero,” he said.
“While FSS continues to work closely with local authorities and Public Health Scotland, I would urge any small business owner to double check their stock to ensure recalled product isn’t available for sale. Any members of the public who have bought or spot recalled Kinder products on shelves or online are advised to raise the issue with the retailer and report the matter to their local authority so that action can be.”
Chocolate produced in Belgium was distributed to at least 113 countries.
Monophasic Salmonella Typhimurium matching the outbreak cases was identified in buttermilk tanks at the Ferrero plant in Arlon, Belgium in December 2021 and January 2022.
The first patient was reported in the UK on Jan. 7, with a sampling date of Dec. 21, 2021. The UK issued a notice on a European platform on Feb. 17 and another alert on March 25. It notified the WHO about the cluster of monophasic Salmonella Typhimurium on March 27.
(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)