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83 countries affected by Lactalis salmonella scandal: CEO

© AFP/File | A picture taken on January 12, 2018 shows the logo at the entrance of the headquarters builing of French dairy group Lactalis in Laval, western France

PARIS (AFP) - 

A salmonella scandal at French dairy group Lactalis has affected 83 countries, where 12 million boxes of powdered baby milk are being recalled, the company's CEO said Sunday in an interview with French media.

"We must take account the scale of this operation: more than 12 million boxes are affected," he said, adding that distributors would no longer have to sort through the produce to find the contaminated powder. "They know that everything has to be removed from the shelves," Emmanuel Besnier said.

He said that the consequences of this health crisis for consumers, including babies under six months, were at the forefront of his mind. "It is for us, for me, a great concern," he told the Journal du Dimanche.

Hundreds of lawsuits have been filed against the group by families who say their children got salmonella poisoning after drinking powdered milk made by the company.

So far French officials have reported 35 cases of infants getting salmonella from the powder, while one case has been reported in Spain and another is being investigated in Greece.

An association representing victims says the authorities are underestimating the number of cases.

"There are complaints and there will be an investigation with which we will fully collaborate. We never thought to act otherwise," Besnier said.

© 2018 AFP