A Salmonella contamination incident has continued to affect Barry Callebaut in regions including North America, based on sales figures from the company.

An issue at the Wieze factory in Belgium in June 2022 with a batch of contaminated lecithin led to production temporarily being stopped and a gradual return to normal operations by October.

Sales volume was down 5.1 percent in the first three months of the fiscal year 2022/23, which ended on Nov. 30, 2022, partly due to what happened at Wieze. However, sales revenue increased in the period.

The chocolate business was down by 5.8 percent in terms of volume, because of the impact of the factory restart and compared to a good performance in the same quarter in the prior year.

All regions were affected but mainly Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) with an 8.5 percent drop to 261,902 tons.

Volume in the food manufacturers part of the business improved compared to the fourth quarter of the past fiscal year but lagged behind the prior-year quarter. The gourmet and specialties business was also affected by the delayed impact on volume.

Volume in North America, which includes the United States, suffered from the limited availability of global brands due to the delayed effect of the ramp-up in the Wieze factory. Gourmet and specialties volume was down in Asia Pacific for the same reason. 

Slow start but brighter future
The incident cost the company $77 million in the fiscal year 2021/22, which ended on Aug. 31, 2022. This includes costs for transportation, storage, destruction, and disposal of contaminated products and charges for cleaning such as dismantling, disinfecting, and reassembling all implicated product lines.

“With Wieze fully operational since the end of October and against a strong comparator, we had, as expected, a slow start to the year. In markets where gourmet products were widely available, we continued to win,” said Peter Boone, CEO of the Barry Callebaut group.

“We expect a more back-end loaded year with improvements in the coming quarters as the Wieze factory is fully back on stream and gourmet products are more widely available.”

One batch of contaminated lecithin was unloaded at the Wieze factory on June 25. Barry Callebaut confirmed Salmonella Tennessee in the lecithin system of the site and in samples of the raw material. The implicated batch came from a lecithin manufacturer in Hungary and was transported by another company.

Production was stopped and no affected products entered the retail supply chain. Efforts to ramp up operations were done with help from the Belgian Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC). 

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