Cadbury’s and its board of directors may face criminal prosecution after its chocolate was named by health chiefs as the most likely source of an outbreak of food poisoning, reports The Times.

The Health Protection Agency has established the likelihood that 37 people, including many toddlers and others under the age of 10, had become ill with the rare strain of salmonella montevideo after eating Cadbury’s chocolate.

The Outbreak Control Team, in a statement through the HPA, said: "After carefully considering all the available evidence, the OCT concluded that the consumption of products made by Cadbury-Schweppes was the most credible explanation for the outbreak."

The link between health chiefs and the firm, which trades in Britain as Cadbury Trebor Bassett, a subsidiary of Cadbury-Schweppes, also heightens the prospect of a group legal action by victims for compensation.

Although tests by the company and by food safety officials have so far found no evidence of the bug in other products, the Food Standards Agency has already said that other infected Cadbury’s products may still be on sale as the suspect base ingredient was used in as many as 43 product lines.