Salmonella… in chocolate

A giant foreign factory that produces chocolate has stopped production due to the discovery of a dangerous bacterium, salmonella, in a batch of products.

The Barry Callebaut group informed the Belgian health authorities, the Federal Office for Food Safety and “closed all Vise chocolate production lines as a precautionary measure”. The global cocoa and chocolate giant announced today that it has halted production at its Belize plant in Belgium, the world’s largest, after detecting salmonella in a batch of products.

“Our quality control experts have identified lecithin as a source of contamination,” the group said in a statement. The spokesperson said that “most of the contaminated food is still at the Vise factory” and that the group contacted 73 customers (businesses and chocolate makers) to inform them of the potential danger of eating chocolate if the product ends up on consumers’ tables.

“All chocolate products produced after June 25 have been withdrawn,” the statement said, “all chocolate production lines will be cleaned and disinfected before production resumes.” The plant is located thirty kilometers northwest of Brussels.

The Federal Food Chain Safety Service visited the unit and announced that it had launched an investigation to collect all the information to track the infection. Chicken eggs were presumably contaminated with salmonella. Lecithin is known to be an ingredient in the product.

“Food safety is of paramount importance to Barry Callebaut. We have an action plan with specific security procedures,” the responsible persons said in a statement.

Nevertheless, the incident with the discovery of a dangerous bacterium occurred just a few weeks after how salmonella-contaminated chocolate products were discovered at the Ferrero factory in Arlon, southern Belgium, which produces Kinder chocolate. Belgian health authorities announced on June 17 that they had given the green light to reopen the plant for a three-month trial period.

The Swiss group Barry Callebaut supplies cocoa and chocolate products to a large number of companies, from industry giants such as Hershey, Mondelez, Nestlé or Unilever to private confectioners. The company’s annual sales reached 2.2 million tonnes (2020 – 2021). In the previous financial year, the group based in Zurich had a profit of CHF 384.5 million compared to a turnover of CHF 7.2 billion.

The group employs 13,000 people and has over 60 production units worldwide.

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