France's Lactalis forced into new recall in baby milk scare

Emmanuel Besnier France's reclusive dairy billionaire

The government is now hoping to limit reputational damage. Carrefour, Leclerc, Auchan and Systeme U admitted some products were still being sold. Three dozen children have fallen ill in France and at least one other in Spain. Consumers in China, a fast-growing market for baby food and dairy products, are particularly sensitive to such scares after melamine-tainted baby milk led to the deaths of six children in 2008.

That health scare caused distrust in locally produced infant formula and benefited foreign suppliers such as Nestle NESN.N, Danone (DANO.PA) and Lactalis.

"The aim of this radical step is simple: to avoid delays, problems in sorting batches and the risk of human error", Le Maire told a news conference on Friday.

The baby products were still available in hospitals, day cares, pharmacies, and leading supermarkets well after last month's recall. "The state, on the 9th of December, stepped in for a company which failed in its actions and which, I re-emphasize, bears the sole responsibility for the quality and safety of the products on sale", he said.

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Le Maire has summoned Lactalis for talks on Friday.

Speaking from a press conference in Rome, Macron hit out at dairy giant Lactalis after major supermarkets acknowledged this week that millions of baby food products recalled in December over fears of salmonella contamination still made it onto French shelves. Earlier today, it announced that it was temporarily laying off 250 of the 327 staff employed at the site in Craon.

The initial recall only concerned products made since February 2017.

Leclerc, France's biggest food retailer, said this week it had sold 984 products involved in the recall.

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