French baby milk maker Lactalis has ordered a global recall of millions of products over fears of salmonella bacteria contamination.
The company, one of the largest dairy groups in the world, said it has been warned by health authorities in France that 26 infants have become sick since 1 December.
Company spokesman Michel Nalet told The Associated Press on Monday that the "precautionary" recall both in France and abroad affects "several million" products made since mid-February.
Lactalis said in a statement it is "sincerely sorry for the concern generated by the situation and expresses its compassion and support to the families whose children fell ill."
The company said a possible source of the outbreak has been identified in a tower used to dry out the milk at a production site in May. Disinfection and cleaning measures have been put in place at the suspected site in western France.
The health scare started earlier this month when Lactalis was told that 20 infants under six months of age had been diagnosed with salmonella infection. The company ordered a first recall that has been extended to more products at the request of French
authorities following new cases of infections.
Lactalis employs 75,000 people in 85 countries, with a turnover of 17 billion euros ($20 billion).
The symptoms of salmonella infection include abdominal cramps, diarrhoea and fever.
No risk or recall in South Africa
In response, Parmalat Africa's Group Marketing Executive, Cathy Eve, said to Parent24:
"We are aware that our Parent company (Lactalis International) has experienced a quality problem with infant products sold in France and other markets and are in the process of a major recall of specific batches.
"Parmalat South Africa does not sell any infant powders in South Africa – imported or locally produced. The products being recalled are not sold by anyone else in South Africa and so there is no recall underway in this market.
"Quality is the foundation of Parmalat South Africa’s brand promise to consumers. We have a comprehensive pathogen program in place to detect any possible products at risk and we do not release products for human consumption that pose any health risk."
South Africa's Department of Health recommends exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months and continued breastfeeding for up to 2 years.