Cadbury failed to adequately assess the risk of salmonella in its chocolate, the government’s food experts have said.
Scientists from the Food Standard Agency (FSA) said Cadbury used ‘unreliable’ product testing methods which may have underestimated the level and likelihood of contamination.
The food giant recalled more than a million chocolate bars two weeks ago amid concern that the products could be contaminated with the bacteria salmonella. Cadbury had first detected contamination of products from its plant in Marlbrook, Herefordshire in January but first reported to the FSA in June.
Before that, Cadbury had discovered salmonella in some products – which were destroyed – in April 2002, the FSA said.
The FSA’s independent advisory committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF) said Cadbury’s method of salmonella risk assessment could not be relied on for foods such as chocolate.
Committee spokesman Professor Tom Humphrey said: ‘We think the testing methods were insufficiently up to date and insufficiently sensitive.
‘We think they made a mistake in assuming there was a safe level of salmonella in a product like chocolate. Our view is that there isn’t.’
The company’s risk assessment wrongly drew parallels between the threshold for salmonella infection and the threshold for infection by other micro-organisms which can be found in chocolate, the committee said. In fact there is no minimum infectious dose for salmonella.
The committee also warned that other Cadbury’s products could be affected. It said: ‘Where contaminated chocolate crumb was used in the manufacture of products other than those recalled, there could be cause for concern.
Responding to the criticism, a spokesman for Cadbury said the company would improve its procedures.
He said: ‘At all times we have acted in good faith and we do not challenge the views of the expert committee advising the Food Standards Agency or the Environmental Health Officers.
‘We agree that it’s the job of the FSA and EHOs to provide guidance on these matters and we welcome their advice. We’ll continue our dialogue with the regulators and will be improving our procedures in the light of their advice.’
The recalled products were: Cadbury Dairy Milk Turkish 250g; Cadbury Dairy Milk Caramel 250g; Cadbury Dairy Milk Mint 250g; Cadbury Dairy Milk eight chunk; Cadbury Dairy Milk 1kg; Cadbury Dairy Milk Button Easter Egg 105g; Cadbury Freddo 10p.