France opens probe into Kinder candy Salmonella cases

The Paris prosecutor's office said Thursday that it had opened a preliminary inquiry into dozens of cases of Salmonella poisoning in popular Kinder sweets during the key Easter holiday season.

France opens probe into Kinder candy Salmonella cases
Chocolate Kinder Eggs in a supermarket in Hanover, central Germany in 2014. (Photo by Ole SPATA / dpa / AFP) / Germany OUT

A range of chocolate products made at the company’s factory in Arlon, southeast Belgium, were found to contain Salmonella bacteria, resulting in 150 cases in nine European countries.

As of June 2, the Sante Publique France health agency had counted 118 cases in the country, of which 22 had required hospital admission.

Following a complaint by the Foodwatch association, French prosecutors opened on May 25 an investigation into suspected “deceit aggravated by a danger to human health” and reckless endangerment by Ferrero, the Italian confectionery giant that owns Kinder, the Paris prosecutors said.

Salmonella contamination can cause symptoms similar to gastroenteritis including severe diarrhoea and vomiting that are particularly dangerous for children under 10.

Nicolas Neykov, the head of Ferrero France, told Le Parisien daily last month that the contamination came “from a filter located in a vat for dairy butter” at the factory in Arlon, saying it could have been caused by humans or raw materials.

The factory was later closed for hygiene inspections and more than 3,000 tonnes of Kinder products were withdrawn from markets.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has reported 324 confirmed Salmonella cases across the EU and Britain as of May 18, as well as 58 suspected cases.

No deaths from the contaminated products have been reported so far.

Belgian authorities opened an inquiry to determine who might be responsible for the outbreak at Arlon on April 11.

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‘Public opinion is ready’ – These French senators want to legalise marijuana

A group of 31 French senators of the Socialist, Green and Republican parties have come together to write a statement calling for the legalisation of marijuana in France.

'Public opinion is ready' - These French senators want to legalise marijuana

France is known for having some of the strictest laws regarding marijuana consumption in Europe – while simultaneously maintaining one of the highest rates of cannabis usage in the EU. 

A group of French senators – coming from the Socialist, Green and centre-right Les Républicains parties – are trying to change those laws, and have come together to call for marijuana to be legalised in France.

The group of 31 co-signed a statement published in French newspaper, Le Monde, on Wednesday, August 10th.

In the statement, the senators promised to launch a ‘consultation process’ to submit a bill to legalise marijuana “in the coming months.”

The proposition was headed by Senator Gilbert-Luc Devinaz, a member of the Socialist Party, and gained support from the party’s leader, Patrick Kanner.

READ MORE: The long and winding road towards changing France’s cannabis laws

A report by the Assemblé Nationale, which was published in May 2021, estimated that nearly 18 million French people (more than 25 percent of the population) had already consumed marijuana, and that an additional 1.5 million consume it regularly.

This, coupled with the 2019 finding that nearly one in two French people (45 percent) said they were in favour of legalisation, according to a survey by the French Observatory of Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT), helped strengthen the senators’ position.

“Public opinion is ready, the legislature must act,” they wrote.

Their senators argue that legalising marijuana in France will allow the authorities to better protect French citizens, saying that legalising would not require “minimising the health impacts of cannabis consumption” but rather would allow regulation similar to “public policies for tobacco, alcohol or gambling.”

For the group of 31 senators, the benefits of legalisation would involve a better control over the “health quality of products consumed,” “curbing trafficking in disadvantaged areas,” developing large-scale prevention plans,” and finally the taxation of cannabis products and redirection of law enforcement resources. Decriminalisation – in their opinion – would not be sufficient as this would simply “deprive authorities the ability to act,” in contrast to legalisation. 

READ MORE: Is France moving towards legalising cannabis for recreational purposes?

“In the long term, new tax revenues would be generated from the cannabis trade and from savings in the justice and police sectors”, which would make it possible to mobilize “significant resources for prevention as well as for rehabilitation and economic development,” wrote the senators.

In France, the conversation around cannabis has evolved in recent years – former Health Minister (and current government spokesman) Olivier Véran said to France Bleu in September 2021 that “countries that have gone towards legalisation have results better than those of France in the last ten years,” adding that he was interested in the potential therapeutic use of cannabis.

Currently, the drug is illegal in France. Previously, it fell under a 1970-law of illicit drug use, making it punishable with up to a year prison and an up to €3,750 fine.

However, in 2020, the government softened the penalties, making it possible for those caught consuming it to opt for an on-the-spot fine of €200.

There is also an ongoing trial involving 3,000 patients to test the impacts of medical marijuana usage, particularly with regard to pain relief.