In a move that will hurt the company in the pre-Easter buying spree, Kraft-Jacobs-Suchard has started recalling the bars of Swiss chocolate. Authorities in Bern found traces of the genetically manipulated soya beans in lecithin - an ingredient in chocolate.
According to Walter Anderau, the board president, the German supplier had assured Kraft-Jacobs-Suchard that the lecithin was free of genetically altered soya beans. "It's a shock for the company," he said.
Following the example of the European Union, the Swiss government agreed last December to allow in the soya beans from the United States. However, that decision was put on hold in January following a legal challenge from consumer groups.
Mr Anderau said that although the lecithin posed no health risks, the company was forced to recall the Toblerone bars because they could not be legally sold in Switzerland. It was, he added, too early to assess the financial damage to the company.
Between 400 and 500 tons of Toblerone produced at the company's Bern plant were affected, he said. Other products, including Easter eggs and bunnies, were not involved because they did not contain the lecithin in question, said Mr Anderau.
Of all Switzerland's many chocolate products, Toblerone is the best-known overseas. It is heavily promoted, using images of Heidi and the Swiss Alps.
Meanwhile, one of Switzerland's main supermarkets, Co-op, announced it was stopping distribution of selected vegetarian products after some were found to contain genetically modified soya. The soya came from the United States, it said.