World France: Police raid Lactalis after baby milk scandal

00:51  18 january  2018
00:51  18 january  2018 Source:   dw.com

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Police in France have raided five Lactalis sites after contaminated baby milk products caused dozens of children to fall ill. Compensation has been offered to families, who say the company is trying to buy their silence.

French police raided the headquarters of dairy giant Lactalis on Wednesday over a baby milk salmonella scare that has sickened dozens of children and led to a major international recall. Dozens of police were searching the company’s offices in Laval, western France

plain © Getty Images/AFP/J.-F. Monier plain Police in France have raided five Lactalis sites after contaminated baby milk products caused dozens of children to fall ill. Compensation has been offered to families, who say the company is trying to buy their silence.

French police on Wednesday raided the headquarters of dairy conglomerate Lactalis, the company behind a baby milk salmonella outbreak that has caused dozens of children to become sick.

The Paris prosecutor's office said five sites were being searched, including the company's offices in Laval, in western France, and its now closed factory in Craon where the contaminated milk came from.

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French police raided the headquarters of dairy giant Lactalis and a nearby factory on Wednesday amid a salmonella scare that has resulted in 18 babies being hospitalised. France 's Lactalis orders baby milk recall over salmonella fears.

French police raided the headquarters of dairy giant Lactalis on Wednesday over a baby milk salmonella scare that has sickened dozens of children and led to a major international recall. Dozens of police were searching the company's offices in Laval, western France

The raids come after a botched recall of more than 12 million powdered baby milk products from 83 countries, including brands such as Picot, Milumel and Celia.

Products that had been recalled were still available in French hospitals, pharmacies and supermarkets weeks after Lactalis called for them to be removed.

At least 37 babies in France have fallen sick so far, as well as one in Spain, with another unconfirmed case in Greece.

Delay notifying public of contamination

There has been increasing outrage following local media reports that tests conducted by Lactalis revealed salmonella at the Craon site in August and November, but the company did not make its findings public until December.

Lactalis said it had no legal obligation to report the findings because it did not detect the potentially life-threatening salmonella in its products. The contamination was found in a dehydration tower used to reduce milk.

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Lactalis has recalled baby milk from 83 countries, with anger growing after it emerged that the company’s own tests had discovered salmonella at the Craon site in August and November. A source close to the probe said magistrates and 70 police were raiding Lactalis sites on Wednesday.

Lactalis has recalled baby milk from 83 countries, with anger growing after it emerged that A source close to the probe said magistrates and 70 police were raiding Lactalis sites on Wednesday. Officers were guarding the factory doors, an AFP photographer said, with dozens of police vehicles on site.

A preliminary inquiry was opened by Paris investigators on December 2 for suspected fraud and endangering health by failing to properly execute the recall.

In an interview with French publication Journal du Dimanche on Sunday, Lactalis CEO Emmanuel Besnier denied claims that Lactalis had lied about dates and the number of contaminated products.

"At no point was there any intention of hiding things," he told the Journal du Dimanche.

Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said that the company's explanations were not sufficient.

"When you have a case of milk on the market which has clearly caused complicated health problems for children, it means at some point there was negligence," Griveaux said.

Lactalis 'buying silence'

Dozens of families in France whose children became ill as a result of the contaminated product have filed lawsuits against the company.

Besnier told Journal du Dimanche that the families of children who had become sick from their products would be compensated.

"It's not easy to evaluate the number of items that need to be returned because we don't know what's been consumed already," he said. 

However, a group of the victims' families, which met with French government representatives on Monday, rejected the offer, and have accused Lactalis of trying to buy their silence.

In France, 18 of the ill babies were hospitalized, but are now recovering well, according to the public health agency.

law/kms (AFP, AP)

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