Say what you will – and I’ve had plenty to say – about the lack of food safety transparency in the USA and Canada. The situation in France makes FDA, USDA and Canada’s CFIA look like a gaggle of gossips by comparison.

On December 17th, La Société SALAISON POLETTE ZA (located at Champ St. Pierre 63460 Teilhède, France) recalled several brands of “Label Rouge (Red Label)” dried sausage products, due to a strong suspicion that Salmonella was present in the products. All products packaged in perforated bags and sold from October 1st through December 15th 2011 were included in the recall.

As it turns out, the recall was triggered by more than a “strong suspicion” of Salmonella. Today’s notification list (December 20, 2011) from Europe’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) included the following item:

Foodborne outbreak (Salmonella monophasic serovar 4, 5, 12) caused by dried sausages “Red Label” from France.

The implicated products were distributed in France, Poland, Portugal and Slovenia. The outbreak and recall notice were issued by France.

The products were sold under the Môssieur Polette, Nos Regions ont du Talent, Cora, Match chez Leclerc, Casino, Monoprix and Match brand names, and included the following items:

  • Saucisson sec Label Rouge: 300g & 250g
  • Rosette Label Rouge: 400g
  • Saucisse sèche Label Rouge: 300g

Ironically, the “Label Rouge” designation is meant to provide an assurance of heightened standards of production, quality and safety, as described by one participating poultry farm:

“The Label Rouge program focuses on high-quality products, mainly meat, with poultry making up most of the products. It emphasizes quality attributes such as taste, culinary qualities, free-range production, and food safety.”

Except for the standard warning to consumers that accompanied the recall notice, the French government has issued no warnings that the recalled sausages were implicated in cases of salmonellosis. We don’t know how many cases have been reported, where the illnesses occurred, or whether anyone has been hospitalized.

I strongly urge my readers in France, Poland, Portugal and Slovenia who may have consumed the recalled sausages to be on the alert for any symptoms of Salmonella infection (stomach ache, low-grade fever, diarrhea), and to seek immediate medical attention if these symptoms appear. The typical incubation period for Salmonella is from 12 to 72 hours after consuming a contaminated food.

The illness usually will last about 4 to 7 days. Most cases of salmonellosis are fairly mild, but the elderly and the very young are at heightened risk of severe diarrhea, resulting in dehydration.

Consumers should check their refrigerators for any of the recalled items, and either discard them in a safe manner or return them to the store where they were purchased.