Swiss chocolate giant Barry Callebaut on Thursday announced it has suspended production at its plant in Wieze, Belgium—the world’s largest chocolate factory—after a salmonella outbreak was detected, an incident that comes just months after an outbreak at a Ferrero chocolate factory was linked to more than 300 people falling sick across the world.
In a press statement, Barry Callebaut said it halted production after detecting salmonella in a production lot at its Wieze factory on Monday.
The company said it has informed Belgian food authorities (FAVV) about the outbreak and has blocked all products manufactured since Monday’s test.
The chocolate maker is also reaching out to customers who may have purchased any contaminated products, the statement added.
Barry Callebaut’s own experts have identified the additive lecithin—used in all chocolate production—as the source of the contamination.
The company said it plans to get to the root of the issue while keeping regulators informed and added production will only resume after the investigation is complete and production lines are cleaned and disinfected.
Barry Callebaut’s Zurich-listed shares were down 2.67% in afternoon trading.
On its website, Barry Callebaut says its chocolates are used by food and beverage manufacturers, pastry chefs, bakeries, hotels, restaurants and chocolatiers. Last year, the company announced the extension of its strategic supply agreement with American chocolate maker Hershey. It is unclear if the Wieze factory manufactured any products used by Hershey.
Earlier this year, 369 people—mostly children—from 16 different countries contracted salmonella after eating contaminated Kinder chocolate eggs manufactured at a Ferrero plant in Belgium. After initially playing down the risks, Ferrero was forced to shut down its factory in April by Belgian authorities. The company also issued a recall for some of its Kinder products from the U.S. market, due to contamination concerns. The Italian chocolate maker’s factory in Arlon was allowed to reopen earlier this month, under strict conditions including close monitoring of raw materials and final products to see if they satisfy all food safety standards.
Belgium chocolate factory shut after salmonella infection (Associated Press)
Salmonella outbreak shuts down major Belgian chocolate factory (Politico)