Health officials say that contaminated Cadbury’s chocolate bars were the most likely cause of a salmonella outbreak in England and Wales.
Up to 37 of the 56 cases of the illness reported between March and July this year could be linked to the contaminated products.
The chocolate giant recalled a million bars in June because of salmonella contamination from a leaking pipe at one of its plants.
Now a Health Protection Agency (HPA) investigation has found that the salmonella Montevideo strain in samples taken from Cadbury’s matched the one which caused the outbreak.
The HPA discovered that 13 of the people infected in England and Wales had eaten Cadbury’s products. A fourteenth person had eaten confectionery of some sort but couldn’t remember which brand, while Welsh authorities reported that a fifteenth salmonella victim had eaten a Cadbury’s product. No other food products or brands were found to have been eaten by all the 13 cases investigated.
Surge in salmonella cases
The HPA said:‘After carefully considering all the available evidence, the outbreak control team concluded that consumption of products made by Cadbury Schweppes was the most credible explanation for the outbreak of salmonella Montevideo. The geographical distribution of cases suggests that the outbreak was caused by a nationally distributed food.’
A spokesman for the HPA said the number of salmonella cases reported in England and Wales since March was equivalent to the usual number for an entire year.
Cadbury discovered the contamination in January but failed to report it to the food watchdog, the Food Standards Agency (FSA), until June.
Cadbury said: ‘We’re sorry to hear that people have been unwell. We’ve already announced that we have changed our protocol because we understood that the consumers’ desire for no risk at all is paramount. Any product showing any traces of salmonella will be destroyed.’