A little more than nine months after a contamination with salmonella from its site of Craon (Mayenne), the Lactalis group has been granted a new permission to market the powder of baby milk produced in this factory, much to the dismay of victims and of associations.
“The prefect of Mayenne, in consultation with the ministry of Agriculture and Food, has allowed this day to the resumption of the marketing of milk powders infant site of Craon”, announced on Tuesday that the ministry of Agriculture.
By the end of 2017, 36 infants were diagnosed with salmonellosis after drinking baby milk brands Picot and Milumel product in the factory Lactalis of Craon, a scandal of health, the management of which has been driven at the highest level of the State.
“The green light is immediate, in the sense that everything that will be manufactured in the factory from now on will be marketed”, said to AFP Fany Molin, deputy director of food safety at the ministry of Agriculture.
Add to that the batches packaged in the factory since 4 July, when the activity is infant has restarted in the factory, as well as the milk powder dried in the factory since July 31.
On the other hand, the powder dried in the factory between these two dates “is not allowed to be marketed and Lactalis will destroy it,” said Ms. Molin.
Before giving their consent, the services of the State have carried out inspections to check the premises to verify the procedures put in place to check how to work with the operators, to see if all the work that had been announced by Lactalis have been put in place,” said Ms. Molin.
The agents of the State have also conducted sampling in milk powder and in the production environment, since the restart of the activity, infant July 4, but also, from the restart of the production of the powder for adults on 28 may: “All the results of these official analyses have never revealed salmonella bacteria,” said Ms. Molin.
Just like the self-checks carried out by the group, according to a sampling plan “reinforced and validated by Anses, to detect contamination of very unique products,” said Ms. Molin, who believes that “risk is controlled”.
– A plant that remains under surveillance –
“This is an important step as we expected, given the investment made over 10 million euros on the site of Craon,” commented Michel Nalet, a spokesman for the group Lactalis, questioned by the AFP.
The group is committed to “continue to communicate and collaborate on all documents to be forwarded to the administration,” added Mr Nalet.
He has little choice, according to the ministry, which indicates that the prefect of Mayenne has “imposed a regular transmission of all the results of the plan of self-assessment of its services, as well as an obligation of immediate information of any detection of salmonella (finished products and/or production environment). Regular inspections and unannounced of the company are also scheduled.
Even with these precautions, the decision has provoked the wrath of the consumer association Foodwatch, that the judge “unacceptable”.
“To this day, we have no guarantee that the same malfunctions are not going to reproduce. The preliminary judicial inquiry is still ongoing. And the conclusions of the parliamentary Commission of inquiry that have not even been taken into account,” said Karine Jacquemart, director of the NGO, which filed a complaint last February with several parents to demand total transparency in this case.
These parents have also expressed their anger, the voice of Quentin Guillemain, president of the association of the families affected: “We had agreed with the prefect of an interview no later than next week for explanations on the recovery of the activity of the plant, to know what had been done in the factory,” he explained, lamenting “the precipitation, without a desire to reassure”.
“What I don’t understand, is that there is a preliminary inquiry, which is underway on the conditions of contamination in the factory”, has also regretted that Mr. Guillemain, who sees in the industrial site, a “piece of evidence”.