Barry Callebaut's plant in Wieze, Belgium, produces liquid chocolate in wholesale batches for 73 clients making confectionaries. AFP/Georges Gobet
WIEZE, Belgium - Salmonella bacteria have been discovered in the world's biggest chocolate plant, run by Swiss giant Barry Callebaut in the Belgian town of Wieze, the firm said on Thursday.
A company spokesman told AFP that production had been halted at the factory, which produces liquid chocolate in wholesale batches for 73 clients making confectionaries.
"All products manufactured since the test have been blocked," spokesman Korneel Warlop said.
"Barry Callebaut is currently contacting all customers who may have received contaminated products. Chocolate production in Wieze remains suspended until further notice."
Most of the products discovered to be contaminated are still on the site, he said.
But the firm has contacted all its clients and asked them not to ship any products they have made with chocolate made since June 25 at these Wieze plant, which is in Flanders, northwest of Brussels.
Belgium's food safety agency AFSCA has been informed and a spokesman told AFP it had opened an investigation.
The Wieze plant does not make chocolates to be sold directly to consumers, and the firm has no reason yet to believe that any contaminated goods made by clients have yet made it onto shop shelves.
The scare comes a few weeks after a case of chocolates contaminated with salmonella in the Ferrero factory in Arlon in southern Belgium manufacturing Kinder chocolates.
Belgian health authorities announced on June 17 that they had given the green light to restart the Italian giant's factory for a three-month test period.
Swiss group Barry Callebaut supplies cocoa and chocolate products to many companies in the food industry, including industry giants such as Hershey, Mondelez, Nestle or Unilever.
World number one in the sector, its annual sales amounted to 2.2 million tonnes during the 2020-2021 financial year.
Over the past financial year, the group, which has a head office is in Zurich, generated a net profit of 384.5 million Swiss francs ($402 million) for 7.2 billion francs in turnover.
The group employs more than 13,000 people, has more than 60 production sites worldwide.