Major malfunction in the recall procedures for Lactalis baby milk

Emmanuel Besnier France's reclusive dairy billionaire

Three dozen children are thought to have fallen ill.

The botched recall is particularly embarrassing for the government after President Emmanuel Macron pushed food exports during a state visit to China this week.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and Virginie Beaumeunier, head of the Competition Policy, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control Agency (DGCCRF), are reflected on a window as they arrive at a news conference about Lactalis baby milk contamination scandal at the Bercy Finance Ministry in Paris, France, January 11, 2018.

Privately-held Lactalis, which has annual sales of around 17 billion euros ($20 billion), has addressed the salmonella contamination by halting operations at the factory where it started.

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The DGCCRF issued a first recall on December 10 after Lactalis discovered salmonella contamination at its Craon factory, halting the sale of several baby food products made there.

"Several hundreds more want to file suit, and will do so in the coming days", he said.

Lactalis spokesperson Michel Nalet, during a Thursday press conference, offered no clear explanation for what went wrong, but said that the scale of the recall was unprecedented in the dairy industry and that the group was investigating.

Some of the products included in the recall were destined for markets overseas, including China.

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Leclerc, France's biggest food retailer, said this week it had sold 984 products involved in the recall.

"Today, no reopening date can be considered until we have correctly and precisely defined the source of the infection and until it is clearly identified and eliminated", the minister also noted, while Lactalis announced a little earlier the implementation of partial unemployment measures for 250 employees of the Cactus Lactalis plant.

A judicial investigation is taking place in France over the contamination and a group of French parents of affected infants said on Friday that they were considering a joint lawsuit.

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