French baby-milk maker Lactalis and health authorities have ordered a major international product recall because of fears of salmonella contamination following 26 cases of children falling sick in France.

Company spokesman Michel Nalet told AFP “nearly 7,000 tonnes” of production may have been contaminated, but the company is unable to say currently how much remains on the market, has been consumed or is in stock.

One of the world’s biggest producers of dairy products sells its baby milk in packets ranging from 350-950 grams which are marketed globally under a host of brand names.

The recall will affect consumers in countries as diverse as China, Pakistan, Britain and Sudan, underlining the reach of the company and the difficulty in trying to trace all the potentially at-risk powder.

Sunday’s announcement by the company and regulators in the French economy ministry significantly widens the scare which first emerged at the start of the month with reports of 20 sick children under the age of six.

Salmonella symptoms include severe diarrhoea, stomach camps and vomiting, and the illness — caused by intestinal bacteria from farm animals — is dangerous for the very young and elderly because of the risk of dehydration.

None of the 26 victims in France has died.

Asked if any cases had been reported abroad, Nalet replied: “Not as far as I am aware.”