Barry Callebaut chocolate plant ceases operations following Salmonella outbreak

BELGIUM— Barry Callebaut, the world’s leading manufacturer of high-quality chocolate and cocoa products, has announced it has suspended production at its plant in Wieze, Belgium—the world’s largest chocolate factory—after a salmonella was detected in a batch of products.

The Switzerland-based group said it had “detected a salmonella positive production lot” at its plant in the town of Wieze on Monday. As a result, chocolate production at the facility “will remain suspended until further notice”.

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Barry Callebaut supplies ingredients to some of the world’s major, consumer-facing, chocolate companies.

A report in Belgian newspaper De Tijd said Mondelez International, Guylian, Neuhaus and The Belgian Chocolate Group had either had to completely or partially halt production at certain factories as a result of the contamination at the Barry Callebaut site.

Barry Callebaut said lecithin was the source of the contamination at the Wieze site. Lecithin is a food additive that comes from several sources — one of them being soy.

It is typically used as a way to decrease chocolate’s viscosity, making it easier to mold and temper.

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“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.

Out of precaution, we have also asked our customers to block any shipped products,” Barry Callebaut said in a statement issued today.

The company added production will only resume after the investigation is complete and production lines are cleaned and disinfected. Belgium’s federal food safety agency, the FAVV-AFSCA, has opened an investigation.

“Barry Callebaut itself has decided to stop production at Wieze, and so have a number of customers. This is not an administrative decision by the FAVV-AFSCA” it said.

It is the latest in a series of Salmonella in chocolate incidents so far this year. Just months prior, an outbreak at a Ferrero chocolate factory was linked to more than 300 people falling sick across the world, leading FAVV-AFSCA to order the company to suspend operations at the facility in April.

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Recently, the Kinder maker has been granted “conditional authorization” from Belgium’s food-safety body to reopen its salmonella-hit plant in Arlon.

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