Eurofins has called a compensation claim against one of its labs by Lactalis in relation to a 2017 Salmonella incident “frivolous.”

Production at Lactalis’ Craon site in France was suspended in December 2017 as part of a Salmonella Agona outbreak investigation. Lactalis was allowed to restart sales of infant formula made at the plant in September 2018. The outbreak sickened 38 babies in France, and two in Spain, and one in Greece. At least 18 infants were hospitalized.

In February 2023, French authorities announced a criminal investigation into the outbreak and Lactalis said it would cooperate with the authorities.

Earlier this week, French media reported Lactalis was seeking €1 billion ($1.1 billion) in compensation from a Eurofins lab for not carrying out testing correctly.

Eurofins’ position
Eurofins said Lactalis has “tried to deflect the blame” and filed a commercial claim in a Paris court in April 2018 against two of its subsidiaries, Eurofins Laboratoire Microbiologie Ouest (ELMO) and Eurofins NDSC Food France, which generate about €20 million ($21.8 million) in annual revenues. Analysis of the claim is still ongoing.

ELMO analyzed the samples Lactalis sent to its Nantes laboratory and said it would have detected Salmonella if these had been positive, as it did on several occasions since 2009, including in 2011, 2014 as well as August and November 2017. Positives came from environmental samples taken at the factory in Craon, according to Eurofins.

“With this frivolous claim, Lactalis presumably wishes to deflect attention from the many shortcomings in the quality management of its Craon plant which are asserted by the French government in its criminal case against Lactalis,” said Eurofins.

Lactalis still uses ELMO to conduct analysis of some samples, according to Eurofins.

ELMO is also involved in ongoing investigations aimed at finding the cause of Salmonella contamination at the Lactalis plant by providing technical and scientific expertise.

Eurofins said the compensation claim was “unfounded” and the amount was “unjustified” but admitted proceedings will “presumably go on for some time”.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)