BRUSSELS: Belgian health authorities ordered Italian confectionery group Ferrero on Friday (Apr 8) to suspend production at its plant in Belgium, after an investigation into dozens of cases of salmonella linked to the company's Kinder chocolates.
Ferrero, which recalled several batches of Kinder Surprise chocolate eggs and other products from shelves in Spain, Britain, Ireland and the United States, said other Kinder products made at its Arlon site had also been recalled.
The company did not explicitly link the recall to the salmonella cases.
Following the Belgian order to close the factory, Ferrero on Friday apologised, acknowledging internal failures.
Italy's Ferrero "acknowledges there were internal failures" and said it "profoundly regrets" and "sincerely apologises" for the spate of cases of salmonella and a massive recall just ahead of the Easter holiday.
Belgium's food safety agency AFSCA-FAVV said that a link had been confirmed between more than a hundred cases of salmonella over several weeks and Ferrero production in southern Belgium.
The authority also ordered the recall of the factory's entire production of the company's popular Kinder brand - a huge blow to Ferrero at the height of the Easter holiday season.
"Such a decision is never taken lightly, but the current circumstances make it necessary. The food security of our citizens can never be neglected," Belgian Agriculture Minister David Clarinval said in a statement.
On Wednesday, Europe's health agency had said it was investigating dozens of reported and suspected cases of salmonella linked with eating chocolate in at least nine countries, mostly among children aged under 10.
The Arlon plant accounts for around 7 per cent of total global volumes of Kinder products, Ferrero said.
The Belgian agency said the decision to suspend production there was taken after it concluded that information from Ferrero was incomplete. Lifting the suspension would only happen once the plant was shown to be meeting all food safety rules.
The agency urged consumers not to eat any of the recalled products, which include Kinder Surprise, Kinder Surprise Maxi, Kinder Mini Eggs and Kinder Schokobons.
The company said there were internal inefficiencies, creating delays in retrieving and sharing information in a timely manner.
It previously described recalls as precautionary and said that no Kinder products released to the market had tested positive for salmonella.
Salmonella is a type of bacteria that can cause symptoms including diarrhoea, fever and stomach cramps in humans, and is one of the most common food-borne infections.
Most cases are caused by the ingestion of food contaminated with animal or human faeces.