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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 June 2006, 09:40 GMT 10:40 UK
How to get rid of 1m chocolate bars?
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Cadbury has recalled more than a million chocolate bars over fears they could be contaminated with salmonella. But how do you dispose of that many bars?

Water leaking from a pipe and splashing on to a factory conveyor belt has been blamed by Cadbury for a salmonella scare that has resulted in over a million chocolate bars being ordered off the shelves.

The recall is one of the biggest in the company's history. It says the action is precautionary and the risk of getting salmonella is low, but bacteriologist Professor Hugh Pennington ,of Aberdeen University, says there is no safe level for the bug in chocolate.

"The fat in chocolate actually preserves the salmonella from the normal intestinal defences, so you don't have to eat very many salmonellas to get infected," he says.

The bug attacks the gut, causing severe sickness, vomiting and diarrhoea. Symptoms take up to three days to appear and victims can take months to recover.

So the bars are being taken off the shelves and the problem Cadbury now faces is how to safely dispose of 250 tons of chocolate - the equivalent of 55 male elephants.

Buried treasure

According to reports, it is considering removing all the wrappers and burying the bars. It will not reveal where for fear children will try to find them, says the Mail on Sunday.

The company has refused to comment. "We have plans but that is all we are prepared to say," says a Cadbury spokesman.

There are several methods of waste disposal that could be used. The bars could be unwrapped and buried in a licensed landfill site - waste far more toxic is disposed of in this way.

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"Landfill is subject to strict regulations," says Andrew Urquhart, of ADAS, the UK's leading provider of environmental and rural policy advice and solutions. "It is an engineered, controlled process that is constantly monitored, so burying it would cause no problems even with the salmonella risk."

But more useful ways of disposing of the bars are incineration and composting. If incinerated, the bars will produce energy that can be harnessed and used. And if the chocolate is subject to the right composting treatment, any salmonella will be killed and it can then be put back into the food chain in animal feed.

"It would be a shame to bury it in a landfill as it will ferment and produce greenhouse gases," says Eric Walton, a consultant in environmental engineering and management. "Putting it to good use would be a much better idea."

It is Cadbury's responsibility to dispose of the chocolate and decide how it will be done, according to the Food Standards Agency (FSA). The operation will be overseen by the local authority covering the area where an appropriate dump is located.




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