By Sybille de La Hamaide
PARIS (Reuters) – All Reblochon cheese coming from a factory in the French Alps should be removed from the market after young children were found to have been infected by a E.coli bacteria linked to the raw milk based product, the French agriculture ministry said on Monday.
French food retailer Leclerc had issued a recall on Friday of Reblochon products produced by cheesemaker Chabert and sold in its own shops under the “Nos regions ont du talent” (“Our regions have talent”) brand.
The recall now concerns all distributors of the suspect cheese, including retailers Carrefour and Intermarché, which sold the cheese produced in Cruseilles in the western Haute-Savoie region under their own brand, the company said.
The move came after the French health authorities linked seven cases of E.coli 026 bacteria among children between one-and-a-half and three years to the cheese, which is a creamy specialty of the French Alps.
Six of the seven cases of infection involved hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS), a potentially serious condition that can cause kidney failure among young children.
“Following the traceability survey conducted this weekend, it was decided as a precaution measure to withdraw and recall all Reblochon cheese made with whole raw milk manufactured on this site (carrying the sanitary mark: FR 74.096.050 CE) and marketed until today,” the ministry said in a statement.
It reiterated official guidance that raw milk and cheese made with raw milk should not be given to young children. The ministry said the recall concerned 329 tonnes of cheese produced by the family firm since the end of January. It was unclear how much was still on the market.
Cheeses made at other plants of the supplier are not covered by the alert, Chabert said.
In another health alert affecting children, France witnessed a massive recall of baby milk late last year after cases of salmonella bacteria were linked to a factory of dairy giant Lactalis.
The health ministry said on Monday there had been no new case of E.coli reported over the weekend and that one of the seven children infected was yet to return home.
However, new cases could emerge now that hospitals and doctors had been alerted to the problem, the French agriculture ministry’s deputy head of food, Loic Evain, said.
“A case of HUS is far more serious than a case of salmonella as seen at Lactalis,” he said.
“The problem is solved in terms of products, there won’t be any contaminated Reblochon left on the market, but we cannot say that things are over as a public health matter. It is possible that other cases will be revealed.”
(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide; Editing by Toby Chopra)