The World's Biggest Chocolate Plant Just Hit A Dangerous Snag

Walking into the world's biggest chocolate plant might sound like something out of a Willy Wonka-inspired dream, but operations at the Barry Callebaut chocolate factory in Wieze, Belgium have turned into more of a nightmare as of late. According to a press release issued by the Barry Callebaut Group, lecithin, an ingredient used in all chocolate production at the plant, was discovered as being contaminated with salmonella. The company has halted all production and notified the FAVV, a Belgian governmental division related to food safety.

The Barry Callebaut plant doesn't manufacture chocolate products, but rather makes liquid chocolate that is then sold wholesale to chocolatiers. Per Digital Journal, all 73 customers are being notified. Luckily, the contamination was identified on June 25 and the company does not suspect there has been time for any infected products to reach consumers yet. Barry Callebaut is currently cleaning the factory and, per company spokesman Korneel Warlop, "Chocolate production in Wieze remains suspended until further notice."

Food safety is an issue to take seriously

The Barry Callebaut Group claims to take food safety very seriously, as the company noted in the press release that it has a food safety charter and procedure as well as 230 employees in Europe dedicated to food safety and quality, staffing that was able to help them swiftly pinpoint the contamination issue. Food Safety and Quality Assurance Coordinator Geraldine Bissong was featured on the company's Instagram account for World Food Safety Day on June 7 sharing words on their own commitment to food safety. "When integrity is jeopardized, then everyone is at risk! I therefore commit to zero tolerance and zero negotiation on issues that could menace the health and wellbeing of consumers," Bissong said.

Salmonella bacteria infection can cause serious illness with symptoms including but not limited to diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps (via CDC). Anyone who suspects they may have eaten a product contaminated with salmonella or is experiencing symptoms should contact a health professional.