Four of France's largest supermarket chains have admitted to stocking infant formula products despite concerns they were contaminated with salmonella.
In a statement on Thursday, Carrefour said it had sold 434 products at risk of contamination since the December 21 recall, but that another 95,000 had been successfully removed from shelves.
The baby milk powder was recalled previous year after a number of children fell ill.
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On Dec. 10, Lactalis - one of the world's top manufacturers of dairy products - ordered a recall of 625 batches or almost 7,000 tons of products after almost 30 infants fell sick. On Thursday, Lactalis announced the temporary lay off of 250 workers.
But French retailers Carrefour, Auchan 52 and Systeme-U Leclerc said this week that the recalled products were still available to buy after the halt.
"Unfortunately we have not been able to compare our own figures" with those of health authorities, he said, "and today I can't tell you how many victims there are exactly".
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A French judicial investigation was launched in December and consumer protection association UFC-Que Choisir said it had filed a lawsuit against Lactalis for alleged fraud.
The claim was rebuffed by Le Maire, who told French television: "If there had been ideal collaboration, I wouldn't have had to sign an order on December 9 demanding the recall of more than 600 shipments of baby milk".
Lactalis spokesperson Michel Nalet, during a Thursday press conference, offered no clear explanation for what went wrong, but said that the scale of the recall was unprecedented in the dairy industry and that the group was investigating.
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