Chocolate Industry

Salmonella stops production of the largest chocolate factory in the world | Food industry

Production has been halted at the world’s largest chocolate factory, run by Swiss group Barry Callebaut in Wieze, Belgium, after salmonella contamination was discovered.

A company spokesperson said production had been preemptively halted at the factory, which produces liquid chocolate in wholesale batches for 73 confectionery customers.

The company said 72 of the 73 businesses confirmed they had halted deliveries of potentially contaminated chocolate in time to prevent contact with stores and were awaiting a customer response.

So far, no chocolate consumer has been exposed to salmonella, which causes salmonellosis, a disease that causes diarrhea and fever but is only dangerous in the most extreme cases.

“All products produced since the test have been blocked,” the spokesperson said. “Barry Callebaut is currently contacting all customers who may have received contaminated products. Chocolate production in Wieze remains suspended until further notice.

Most of the products discovered to be contaminated were still at the site, he said.

However, the company has contacted all of its customers and asked them not to ship any more products they have made with chocolate made since June 25 at the factory in Wieze, which is in Flanders, northwest from Brussels.

“Food safety is of the utmost importance to Barry Callebaut and this contamination is quite exceptional. We have a well-defined food safety charter and procedures,” the firm said.

Belgium’s food safety agency was notified and a spokesperson said it had opened an investigation.

Barry Callebaut supplies cocoa and chocolate products to many companies in the food industry, including industry giants such as Hershey, Mondelēz, Nestlé or Unilever. World number one in the sector, its annual sales amounted to 2.2 million tonnes in the 2020-21 financial year.

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The Wieze factory does not make chocolates intended for sale directly to consumers, and the company has no reason to believe that contaminated products made by customers have ended up on store shelves.

The scare comes a few weeks after a case where chocolates were contaminated with salmonella in the Ferrero factory which manufactures Kinder chocolates in Arlon in the south of Belgium.

Belgian health authorities announced on June 17 that they had given the green light to restart the Ferrero factory for a three-month test period.