Lactalis’s Salmonella-Tainted Baby Formula: What Parents Need to Know

The French dairy giant Lactalis is at the center of one of Europe’s biggest food-safety scandals amid revelations that its infant formulas were tainted with salmonella. The company initially found traces of the bacteria at its main factory in August and has recalled more than 7,000 tons of potentially contaminated products from more than 80 countries, mostly in Europe, Africa and Asia. Here’s some information that could be useful for those who think their children may have been exposed to the contaminated products.

How can I tell if my baby has salmonella poisoning?

Salmonella is a bacteria that can cause infections like gastroenteritis. Symptoms usually appear eight to 48 hours after a child has been exposed to the bacteria. Telltale signs include sudden high fever, cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, blood in the stool and possible rectal bleeding. The symptoms can last from a couple of days to a week and may be relatively mild. But several parents in France have reported that their infants had worse reactions and weakened immune systems, requiring further hospitalization.

What should I do if I think there’s a problem?

If your child has salmonella poisoning, gastroenteritis or any other type of serious stomach illness, seek medical advice if her temperature rises suddenly, if she appears drowsy or confused, if she has cramps or is vomiting and can’t keep fluids down. Check her stool for signs of blood. Be sure to double-check which products she has consumed.

What Lactalis products were affected?

Over 7,000 tons of Lactalis baby food products suspected of salmonella contamination have been recalled since December, although a full recall from supermarkets, pharmacies and even hospitals took at least a month to play out. It is unclear how many potentially affected products are still on the shelves in countries besides France. The most popular infant formula brands affected were Milumel, Pepti Junior and Picot. Also recalled was Maltodextridine, a milk powder used for industrial production and sold to consumers in Africa and other countries. The full list of recalled products is here.

Where can I turn for support?

An organization of French families, the Association of Victims of Salmonella Contaminated Milk, is providing support and information to parents who think or know their children have been sickened by Lactalis products. The company has said that baby foods produced at its French factory may have been exposed to salmonella since 2005. The French Health Ministry has up-to-date information, including recommendations from pediatricians.