A factory in Belgium behind a Salmonella contamination in Kinder chocolates sold in Europe can reopen conditionally after a clean-up by owner Ferrero, health authorities said Friday.

Belgium's AFSCA food health safety agency "has decided to give Ferrero conditional authorisation for its production factory in Arlon," in the country's southeast, it said in a statement.

The permission was given for three months, during which all the products will be analysed before they can be distributed and sold, it added.

Ferrero was forced to withdraw more than 3,000 tonnes of Kinder products worth tens of millions of euros after the Salmonella cases were traced to Kinder chocolates made in its Arlon factory.

AFSCA ordered the factory closed in early April, just before the Easter period that usually sees Kinder products fly off supermarket shelves.

Nearly 400 Salmonella cases ended up being detected across the EU and Britain, many of them in children. There were no deaths.

Ferrero's Belgian factory is authorised to restart Kinder chocolate production subject to strict testing
Ferrero's Belgian factory is authorised to restart Kinder chocolate production subject to strict testing BELGA via AFP / ERIC LALMAND

Salmonella contamination symptoms can include severe diarrhoea and vomiting that are particularly dangerous for children under 10.

Ferrero, an Italian confectionary giant that also makes the Nutella chocolate spread in other sites, said it had started the process of reopening the Arlon plant and expected production to restart in a few weeks.

It stressed that it had carried out a "deep clean" of the factory, which has around 1,000 workers, and taken steps so that such a contamination would never happen again. It said the contamination likely was from a filter in a dairy milk tank.

"We are truly sorry for what happened and want to apologise once more to all people who were affected," Ferrero CEO Lapo Civiletti said.

The company is under several probes by Belgian authorities, who are notably investigating whether it was slow to respond to a hygiene problem that might have come to its attention months earlier.

Officials are seeing if Ferrero met obligations for tracing products in its food chain and if the Salmonella incident put human lives in danger.