The Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) publication of a damning claim that Cadbury Schweppes “underestimated the risk” of salmonella contamination in several of its chocolate products could be the first of a raft of health scares in the food industry.
Cadbury’s withdrawal of 1 million chocolate bars has sent tremors through the sector, with companies scrambling to assess their systems for detecting and reporting the presence of harmful bugs.
Concern was heightened this week when the FSA published an investigation into Cadbury’s procedures by the independent Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF).
The report states that Cadbury’s systems could “underestimate the level and likelihood of salmonella contamination.” It also observes: “Cadbury’s risk assessment does not address the risk of salmonella in chocolate in a way which the ACMSF would regard as a modern approach.”
One industry insider warns: “I can’t imagine that Cadbury is the only company that tests for salmonella in this way.”
A spokesman for Cadbury says its procedures were based on “hard science”, but added that the confectioner was taking steps to implement all the recommendations in the ACMSF report.
Other confectionery companies and industry bodies, including the Food and Drink Federation, are refusing to comment until the completion of investigations into the salmonella scare.
Cadbury has now recalled seven lines, including the flagship Dairy Milk bars. Analysts estimate the problem could cost the company as much as &£25m.