The Ferrero case shows what’s going wrong in the industry: “It’s absurd”

As early as December, Ferrero discovered salmonella in a chocolate factory for the first time. Instead of sounding the alarm, the company is silent. Only four months later it acts.

The scandal shows how much goes wrong when it comes to monitoring the food industry.

More than 150 people in Europe have fallen ill after eating Ferrero sweets contaminated with salmonella. Children are particularly affected and sometimes have to be hospitalized with severe symptoms. The food scandal shows how risky the production is. Dealing with how much goes wrong in surveillance.

Ferrero has known about his salmonella problem since December

Ferrero has known about his salmonella problem since December. On December 15, employees discover the bacterium Salmonella Typhimurium in a plant in Arlon, Belgium. Instead of sounding the alarm, the company simply replaces filters, increases controls and sells the products in Europe and around the world after negative salmonella tests.

But the measures are apparently not enough. Months later, cases of salmonella infections are piling up. Around mid-February in the UK.

However, it will be several months before Ferrero withdraws its products. On April 2nd, the company in Great Britain reported a recall, on April 5th the time had come in Germany. To date, more than 150 people have been affected in ten European countries. Most of those infected are children under the age of ten, and they are particularly at risk.

The Belgian public prosecutor’s office is now investigating the confectionery giant. The regulator Afsca revoked Ferrero’s production license for the Arlon plant. All “children’s” products that were manufactured there were withdrawn – not only in Europe, but worldwide. Australia, New Zealand and the USA are also affected.

When her child becomes infected with salmonella, Ferrero wants to send her a chocolate package as an apology
It’s not just the fact that salmonella has appeared in a candy factory that has consumer advocates outraged. It’s also how you deal with it. The fact that it takes months from the first appearance to the product recall. “That’s absurd,” writes Andreas Winkler from the consumer organization “Foodwatch”.

What particularly bothers him: “Ferrero only informs the public bit by bit” that a new product would be recalled every few days. “For many consumers, the recall comes too late because the products have long been eaten.”

Ferrero’s personal dealings with those affected are also questionable. For example, the “Spiegel” reported on a mother whose son became infected with salmonella through a surprise egg. Ferrero then expressed his regret in a letter. But then asked for the mother’s address – the company wanted to send her Ferrero products as compensation.

Two explanations for Ferrero’s late action

But why is Ferrero acting so late? And why only hesitant now? Winkler has two explanations for this:

  1. Lack of risk management:

The confectionery company was not able to clarify the problem faster because there was no effective risk management. This is a “clear violation of EU food law”.

  1. Economic interests: Or, “Ferrero didn’t want it and deliberately delayed and procrastinated,” says Winkler. For example, because economic interests were more important than consumer health.

In fact, the scandal probably causes damage that should possibly be prevented. Ferrero said last Monday that it expected losses in the Easter business.

In addition, the company has grown significantly in recent years and has bought up other candy companies. This also suggests that the company recently had economic growth in mind above all.

Both options are “absolutely unacceptable” and proof that the rights of consumers to preventive health protection in the food sector urgently need to be strengthened.

Case Ferrero shows what goes wrong in food safety

“The Ferrero case once again shows, as if under a magnifying glass, what is going wrong in food safety,” emphasizes Winkler. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s rotten meat, fipronil or now Ferrero – it’s always the same: the manufacturers cover up and delay instead of clarifying things as quickly as possible and aggressively informing the population.”

This has fatal consequences: consumers are often warned far too late. It is up to the government and authorities to finally fix the known vulnerabilities in the system.

“Foodwatch” is therefore demanding that both food manufacturers and authorities be “clearly obliged by law to always make grievances public immediately”.


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