Belgian authorities have ordered the closure of a Kinder chocolate factory suspected to be behind a wave of Salmonella cases in several European countries and the United States.

The factory, owned by Italian confectionery giant Ferrero, was ordered to shut "following the findings of the last few hours that information provided by Ferrero is incomplete," Belgium's food safety authority AFSCA said in a statement.

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.

Ferrero yesterday recalled certain varieties of its Kinder chocolates in the United States which came from the factory, in Belgium's southeastern town of Arlon.

That followed recalls earlier this week in Ireland, the United Kingdom and several other European countries over concerns about products from the factory, although no Kinder items have so far been found to contain the disease.

Ferrero extended its recall today to include all best before dates and all pack sizes of Kinder Schokobons.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland said that so far there have been 15 cases in Ireland with the same strain of Salmonella responsible for the UK outbreak.

"A number of these Irish cases have involved young children," the FSAI said in a statement.

The FSAI continues to warn consumers who may have the recalled products at home not to eat them.

Britain's Food Standards Agency said 63 cases of Salmonella were identified across the UK.

In France, 21 cases have been reported with 15 having eaten Kinder products that have now been recalled, according to the French public health service.

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.

The HSE said that the most recent Irish cases of Salmonella involved people who became unwell in mid-March.

Dr Paul McKeown, Specialist in Public Health Medicine at the HSE-HPSC, said: "Although there has been a speedy recall of these products, we may see a number of further cases of illness associated with this outbreak. However, the likelihood of any individual child becoming sick as a result of eating this product is extremely low.

Dr McKeown said that "only a very small percentage of children who have eaten this product over the last few weeks has developed salmonella infection".

He added: "It is important to remember that the majority of children who develop vomiting and diarrhoea are unlikely to have salmonella infection, and are more likely to have a simple viral tummy upset, which can be treated simply with paracetamol and fluids by mouth."