Swiss chocolate giant Barry Callebaut has been forced to halt production at its Wieze factory in Belgium, after chocolate produced there tested positive for Salmonella.
The contamination was detected on June 25th, when the company blocked all chocolate products from the affected factory. On June 27th, the source was identified to be an infected batch of lecithin, an ingredient commonly used in chocolate products to reduce thickness and help to bind cocoa, sugar and milk.
“As lecithin is used in all chocolate production, we have taken the precautionary measure to stop all production lines and to block all products manufactured since the time of testing, while we continue the root cause analysis and risk assessment”. Barry Callebaut representative.
Food manufacturers are required to regularly test their products for harmful bacteria under EU food law. Barry Callebaut has since reported their finding to the Belgian food authority and contacted customers who may have received compromised products. “Out of precaution, we have also asked our customers to block any shipped products.”
A spokeswoman for the Belgian Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC) said, “We immediately went to the site to start an investigation in cooperation with the factory. If it appears that there is a risk for consumers, we will take the necessary measures. In the current state of investigations, internal information from Barry Callebaut shows that the potentially affected products have not reached the consumer but we are continuing to investigate.”
The company made a statement pointing out the rarity of such cases and outlining their food safety measures:
Not only do we have a food safety charter and procedure in place, we also have over 20 people working on food safety and quality in Europe. In our local site in Wieze, we train our people to recognize food safety risks.
This allowed us to quickly identify the risk and successfully start the root cause analysis.Company Statement
After a risk assessment and an investigation into the root cause is complete, the company says the lines will be cleaned and disinfected prior to resuming production.
Barry Callebaut accounts for approximately 20% of global cocoa product sales. It is uncertain if the suspended chocolate production will disrupt the European chocolate supply in any way.