BELGIUM – Chocolate giant Barry Callebaut, has confirmed Salmonella Tennessee as the type of Salmonella behind the Wieze plant closure.

The contaminated raw material came from a lecithin manufacturer in Hungary and was transported by a third party. The lecithin involved is only used at this site.

On June 27, Barry Callebaut detected a Salmonella positive on a production lot manufactured in Wieze and lecithin was identified as the source of the contamination.

Lecithin is used in all chocolate production lines in Wieze, so the company decided to stop the lines and to block all chocolate products manufactured from June 25 to 29, except for cocoa production which is not linked to the lecithin circuit.

On July 1, Barry Callebaut confirmed that, based on its internal investigation, no affected products had entered the retail food chain. No implicated chocolate has been exported by the company outside Europe.

According to a Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) alert, affected countries include Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Barry Callebaut revealed that it had alerted the Belgian Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC) about the incident, which then visited the facility.

The National Food Chain Safety Office (Nébih) in Hungary has inspected the lecithin supplier, examining the processing methods, documentation, and taking official samples.

The company’s own tests also confirmed the batch of lecithin was contaminated with Salmonella, so it stopped production of the additive, and blocked batches at the plant. Based on initial follow-up investigations, affected items were not shipped to other companies.

The lecithin involved had a Certificate of Analysis and Barry Callebaut is investigating how, despite this, it was contaminated, reports Food Safety News.

Impacted customers have been advised to remove and destroy liquid chocolate stock impacted by the incident from their tanks and lines, so as to be able to clean, disinfect and restart production. This, however, does not yet apply to solid chocolate.

The lecithin involved had a Certificate of Analysis and Barry Callebaut is investigating how, despite this, it was contaminated.

According to Barry Callebaut, a root cause analysis and risk assessment is ongoing and when this is complete, the lines will be cleaned and disinfected before resuming the production process.

Salmonella in chocolate occurrences

Since the beginning of the year, Barry Callebaut’s is the latest incident of Salmonella in chocolate.

In April Ferrero was shut down after an international outbreak of Salmonella tied to its Kinder chocolate.

Ferrero was recently allowed to restart production at its plant in Arlon, Belgium after a large Salmonella outbreak linked to Kinder chocolate led to it being shut down in April.

The monophasic Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak linked to Kinder chocolate has sickened almost 450 people including 122 in the United Kingdom, 118 in France as well as four in Canada and one in the United States.

The FDA allowed Ferrero to resume its operations mid-last month under a probationary basis of satisfactory inspection results.

In May, Strauss Group, the largest food company in Israel, also recalled several Elite branded confectionery products due to Salmonella contamination. The company recalled Elite branded items such as cakes, wafers, energy grain snacks, energy chocolate rice cakes, chewing gum and toffee candies of all dates.

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