(Corrects JAN 31 story to read could cost (not has cost), paragraph 4)
PARIS, Feb 1 (Reuters) - A salmonella contamination of baby milk produced by Lactalis could cost the French dairy group several hundred million euros, its CEO said in a newspaper interview.
Lactalis has recalled 12 millions tins nationwide and from stores around the world after discovering salmonella bacteria in some baby milk last month at a factory in western France.
“We can’t say definitively but (the cost) will be very high, several hundred million euros,” Lactalis Chief Executive Emmanuel Besnier told business daily Les Echos in an interview to be published in its Thursday edition.
“This case could cost us our export licence for a still undetermined period. It’s the biggest crisis I’ve ever had to face as a boss,” he added.
Besnier did not give details of what the costs would be.
French authorities have said that “Salmonella Agona” infections were reported in 38 cases between mid-August and December, 36 of them clearly linked to Lactalis milk. A group representing victims’ families say at least 10 more cases are unaccounted for.
Besnier said that the company did not know how much of the contaminated milk had been consumed but less than half of the recalled product had so far been recovered.
Supermarket chains Leclerc, Auchan, Carrefour and Systeme U have all acknowledged that some of the baby milk had remained on their shelves after the recall.
Besnier said that Lactalis was the target of multiple legal complaints. (Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Susan Fenton)