Illustrative image (Source: mecuteo.vn)

Hanoi (VNS/VNA) - Last week, Vietnam received a warning on another 99 batches of baby formula products from French-based Lactalis over possible salmonella contamination, two months after the scandal-hit company ordered a global recall.

Since December 12, this has been the third notification the Vietnam Food Administration (under the Ministry of Health) has received from the International Network of Food Safety Authorities (INFOSAN), bringing the total number of contaminated products to 33, packed in 153 batches.

The French dairy giant, Lactalis Group, is one of the biggest food manufacturers in the world, specialising in the production of dairy and baby formula products.

Lactalis spokesman, Michel Nalet, said that as much as 7,000 tonnes of formula had been contaminated, however, the company could not ascertain how much has been sold, consumed, or still remained in stock worldwide.

The company spokesman revealed that the issue might result from contamination taking place at the evaporation stage – which is used to turn the liquid milk into powder form – at a factory in the town of Craon in northwest France, according to the Guardian.

Lactalis’ range of Celia products sold in Vietnam include Celia Mama (for expecting mothers), Celia Expert (divided into three sub-products for infants up to 3-year-old), and Celia Cereline (instant cereal for weaning babies).

After the health ministry issued warnings over the recalled products, most major supermarkets as well as baby and maternal shops in the city of Hanoi saw an absence of Lactalis products. Long-term customers were already full of concern, including the question of whether there would be compensation from the manufacturer.

According to experts, salmonella – a type of intestinal bacteria that causes food poisoning – leads to symptoms such as fever, abdominal cramps and diarrhea, within 12-72 hours after exposure. In certain cases, diarrhea can worsen to the level where patients need to be hospitalised. From the intestinal tract, the bacteria will then enter the bloodstream and into other parts of the body. Salmonellosis could be fatal if not treated early with antibiotics.

Tran Viet Nga, deputy head of Vietnam food safety agency, said that the agency has sent an urgent dispatch, telling customs and State inspection agencies at the border gates to inspect the products in question and bar their entry.

Nga added that similar products, even not in the inspection recommended list, would also be reviewed. The imported products, according to the agency, would be traced to the traders in the country – verifying how many products have been bought in, and from what sources, how many have been sold.

“To families that have been using Celia products for a long time, children displaying symptoms like intense stomach-aches, severe diarrhea, or fever, should be taken to the nearest medical facility immediately,” Nga said.

Vietnam customs said that by the end of December last year, the country has imported some 20,000 Lactalis products on the warning list.-VNA