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83 countries affected by Lactalis tainted baby milk

media Lactalis headquarters in Laval, western France ©REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

The CEO of French dairy group Lactalis, at the heart of a salmonella scandal, has told French media that 83 countries have been affected and 12 million boxes of powdered baby milk are now being recalled.

Speaking publicly for the first time since the scandal broke, Lactalis boss Emmanuel Besnier said the consequences of the health crisis for consumers, including babies under six months, were at the forefront of his mind.

Two brands, Picot and Milumel baby milk, were the subject of international recalls issued in mid-December after dozens of children fell ill.

To date 37 babies in France and one in Spain have been found to have been affected, with a possible case in Greece yet to be confirmed.

Hundreds of law suits have been filed against the company.

Government inspectors gave a clean bill of health to the Lactalis site in Craon, north-west France, in early September, according to the Canard Enchaîné weekly.

They failed to find the salmonella bacteria that had been detected by Lactalis's own tests in August and November but not reported to the authorities.

Besnier, who was summoned to explain himself to the French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire on Friday, promised compensation for all the families affected.

Set up in 1933 by Besnier's grandfather, Lactalis has become a multinational with annual sales worth some 17 billion euros, with products including Galbani ricotta and mozzarella in Italy.

With 246 production sites in 47 countries, its list of products also features household names like Président butter and Société roquefort blue cheese.

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