World's largest chocolate factory to resume production after salmonella contamination

Barry Callebaut's chocolate factory in Belgium partially resumed production on Monday. The first deliveries to customers will take place this week. The company announced this on Monday morning. The largest chocolate factory was closed for six weeks after a salmonella contamination was discovered.

For the time being, only a limited number of lines are being put back into operation.

"In the coming weeks, we will be able to release more lines week by week," Barry Callebaut spokesperson Korneel Warlop said. "We foresee a few more weeks to get back to full production."
"We remain cautious because there are many unforeseen things that can happen," Warlop continued. "How will the equipment react when everything is up and running again? That too remains a question for us."

The factory in Wieze, Belgium, is the largest chocolate factory in the world and employs 600 people. The chocolate made in Wieze is destined for processors, who turn it into products for consumers. At the end of June, the company announced that production in Wieze had been halted after the discovery of salmonella contamination in a production lot. A start was then made on cleaning the installations.

Raw material from Hungary

It later emerged that the contamination came from a batch of lecithin, a raw material used as an emulsifier in the food industry. According to the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain, the raw material originated in Hungary.

The impact of the incident on consumers is not yet clear.

"Perhaps not all of our customers will be able to supply all products as normal," Warlop acknowledged. This mainly concerns seasonal products for St. Nicholas, for example, which are classically made between August and September. "There will be no shortages, but the supply may look a little different than usual."

Dutch chocolate company Tony's Chocolonely had announced just this weekend that the production of chocolate letters for St. Nicholas would not take place this year due to problems at Barry Callebaut. St. Nicholas is a Belgian and Dutch tradition that takes place at the beginning of December, during which lots of sweets and gifts are distributed to children.

Largest chocolate manufacturer

Barry Callebaut is the largest chocolate manufacturer in the world. The company was created from a merger between the Belgian company Callebaut and the French company Cacao Barry. It is now based in Zurich, Switzerland, and operates in 30 countries.

In the 2020-2021 financial year, the company sold 2.2 million tonnes of chocolate, accounting for CHF 7.2 billion in sales. Compared to the 'corona' fiscal year 2019-2020, the company experienced a growth of 4.6 percent. Barry Callebaut has 64 companies from which products are shipped to 137 countries all over the world.



© BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK - Illustration picture shows the Barry Callebaut production site in Wieze, Lebbeke, Thursday 30 June 2022.



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