A raft of measures have been proposed in France to avoid a repeat of incidents such as the Salmonella outbreak traced to Lactalis infant formula in 2017.
The parliamentary group charged with the inquiry made 49 recommendations including creation of a food safety police agency to manage issues throughout the supply chain and stronger penal and financial sanctions for companies at the origin of the crisis.
It also proposed a tax on manufacturers to reinforce the capacity of supervisory authorities.
A Salmonella agona outbreak sickened 38 babies in France, two from Spain and one in Greece in 2017. Lactalis recalled infant formula products it had distributed to more than 80 countries.
France already has the Direction générale de la concurrence, de la consommation et de la répression des frauds (DGCCRF) which is mandated to protect consumers, the Douane (French customs) and the Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES), which does monitoring, expert assessment and research for health topics.
The rapporteur of the inquiry, Gregory Besson-Moreau, is expected to introduce a bill with the proposals later this year.
UFC Que Choisir, a consumer group, welcomed questioning of the “blind trust” placed on self-checks by companies but questioned the effectiveness of a standalone food police agency.
Foodwatch said conclusions from the inquiry were useful but are just a “small part of the puzzle” to avoid future food scandals. The non-profit organization contends there is a need for further strengthening of food legislation with greater coordination between the different ministries.
“The conclusions of the parliamentary inquiry commission on the Lactalis case are useful, for example to reinforce the controls of the industry and public authorities. But that will not be enough to avoid other crises,” said Karine Jacquemart from Foodwatch France.
The inquiry also shone a spotlight on distributors after recalled items were discovered to be still on sale during the 2017 investigation. Lactalis had recalled more than 7,000 tonnes of products.
A number of French supermarkets were found to have sold Lactalis infant formula subject to the recall.
Lactalis was recently allowed to restart production of infant milk formula at its Craon plant but products cannot yet be sold.
The report comes days after recommendations from the conseil national de la consummation (CNC) to improve the withdrawal and recall procedure in the country and information given to consumers.
A set of 30 proposals were presented to Bruno Le Maire, Minister of the Economy.
They included creation of a dedicated website for withdrawals and recalls, ability to use bank details to contact clients, blocking recalled products at checkouts, better information for the consumer on the website of implicated companies and strengthening resources and staff for market surveillance authorities.
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