September 18, 2018 / 6:26 PM / in a month

France's Lactalis gets go-ahead to reopen plant after tainted milk scandal

PARIS (Reuters) - French authorities have given dairy giant Lactalis permission to resume selling baby milk from a factory that was closed after salmonella-contaminated milk produced there infected dozens of babies, the government said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Logo of the dairy group Lactalis are seen at the food exhibition Sial in Villepinte, near Paris, France, October 17, 2016. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

Lactalis, one of the world’s largest dairy groups, had to recall 12 million tins in France and around the world because of the contamination, in a scandal that hit the reputation of France’s agri-business industry.

“Conditions are now met to allow the sale of infant milk powder,” the Agriculture Ministry said in a statement.

The decision comes days after Lactalis agreed to buy the infant formula business of South African drugmaker Aspen Pharmacare for 12.9 billion rand ($865 million) in an effort to revive its baby milk expansion after the scandal.

Lactalis has carried out tests at the plant in the northwestern town of Craon for more than three months under the supervision of French health authorities, which will carry out regular, unannounced inspections at the plant in the future.

Privately owned Lactalis, which has said the crisis could cost it hundreds of million of euros, had said that the production line linked to the contamination would be closed permanently but it was awaiting permission from French authorities to restart output at its other production line.

Lactalis could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Foodwatch, a non-profit organization that sued on behalf of victims, said the reopening of the factory is “hasty and unacceptable”.

Reporting by Inti Landauro; Editing by Adrian Croft

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