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Salmonella found in world’s biggest chocolate plant

BRUSSELS (AFP) – Salmonella bacteria have been discovered in the world’s biggest chocolate plant, run by Swiss giant Barry Callebaut in the Belgian town of Wieze, the firm said yesterday.

A company spokesman told AFP production had been halted at the factory, which produces liquid chocolate in wholesale batches for 73 clients making confectionaries.

“All products manufactured since the test have been blocked,” spokesman Korneel Warlop said.

“Barry Callebaut is currently contacting customers who may have received contaminated products. Chocolate production in Wieze remains suspended until further notice.”

Most of the products discovered to be contaminated are still on the site, he said.

But the firm contacted its clients and asked them not to ship any products they have made with chocolate made since June 25 at the Wieze plant, which is in Flanders, northwest of Brussels.

Hot chocolate before being moulded at the Barry Callebaut chocolate factory in Wieze, eastern Flanders. PHOTO: AFP

Belgium’s food safety agency AFSCA has been informed and a spokesman told AFP it opened an investigation.

The Wieze plant does not make chocolates to be sold directly to consumers, and the firm has no reason yet to believe that any contaminated goods made by clients have yet made it onto shop shelves.

The scare comes a few weeks after a case of chocolates contaminated with salmonella in the Ferrero factory in Arlon in southern Belgium manufacturing Kinder chocolates.

Belgian health authorities announced on June 17 they had given the green light to restart the Italian giant’s factory for a three-month test period. Swiss group Barry Callebaut supplies cocoa and chocolate products to many companies in the food industry, including industry giants such as Hershey, Mondelez, Nestle or Unilever.

World number one in the sector, its annual sales amounted to 2.2 million tonnes during the 2020-2021 financial year.

Over the past financial year, the group, which has a head office is in Zurich, generated a net profit of CHF384.5 million (USD402 million) for CHF7.2 billion in turnover.

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