Rwandan government has begun recalling products by French food giant Lactalis days after it issued an order similar to that given by manufacturers.
Pharmacie Arc en Ciel, the distributor for Lactalis dairy products in Rwanda and Burundi, confirmed the move.
Niyonzima Leocadie, a manager at Pharmacie Arc en Ciel, the exclusive distributor for Lactalis Picot brand, said it had begun to get stock from Rwandan and Burundian retailers ahead of working out modalities for compensation.
The French giant first ordered a global recall of some of its products last December. Last week, the Rwandan Ministry of Health, also ordered Lactalis milk products, which have been linked to possible contamination with salmonella bacteria, off the shelves.
“Communication from Lactalis Group says that they will compensate losses incurred from the recall or any damage associated with the recalled products. As their representatives here, we will play an intermediary role because we also have to be compensated,” said Ms Niyonzima.
According to French media reports, the CEO of Lactalis, Emmanuel Besnier, promised to compensate “all the families who have suffered” due to contamination of the group’s products.
“Our job is to put healthy products in the market. If this has not been the case, it is our responsibility,” he was quoted as saying by France 24 on January 14.
Rwandan distributors have gone round supermarkets and pharmacies in the country to collect the recalled products that include infant formula cereals and juices under the Celia, Cereline and Picot brands.
The distributor estimates that the collection of all the recalled products from the market will be complete by January 29. Ms Niyonzima said the total cost of compensation will be calculated after all the products have been recalled.
No Salmonella poisoning
According to officials in the Ministry of Health, no cases of salmonella poisoning have been registered.
A statement issued by the Ministry of Health called on “Any person with a child who consumed the recalled products and has displayed signs of a running stomach, a fever and stomach-ache to take the infant to the nearest hospital.”
The symptoms of a salmonella poisoning usually appear 12–72 hours after intake of contaminated foods, and include fever, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, nausea and sometimes vomiting, according to the World Health Organisation.
Possible salmonella contamination in Lactalis products was announced to the public in early December, and several countries proceeded to remove the products from the market for health reasons.
Rwanda issued a ban on the products after a month, which was termed negligent by some observers, given the health concerns.
However, the Ministry of Health says it had to first carry out investigations to determine “If indeed there were contaminated products” in the market.
“We could not issue a ban based on assumption. That is why, together with our stakeholders, we deployed an inspection team and after their report, we acted immediately,” said Malik Kayumba, the head of the health communication division at Rwanda Biomedical Centre.
Distributors of Lactalis products also say the recall of some products effected by the Group in December concerned items manufactured in 2017 and which were not in the Rwandan market.
“They sent us a letter telling us that we would not be affected because the products we had were all manufactured in 2016,” said Ms Niyonzima.
The Rwanda Standard Board took samples of the Lactalis products currently in the Rwandan market, and its report dated December 29, 2017 showed that powdered milk being supplied by Rwandan distributors was safe for consumption.
However, later on, letters from Lactalis to its distributors dated January 12 and 15, ordered the recall of all its products from the market regardless of the manufacturing date and assured the distributors of compensation.