It was only in December, after around 30 infants fed Lactalis milk had fallen ill, that the health ministry sounded the alarm.
After talks with Lactalis management Le Maire said the company would recall all infant formula milk products made at its Craon factory that were still in warehouses and on store shelves, regardless of the date of manufacture.
"The aim of this radical step is simple: to avoid delays, problems in sorting batches and the risk of human error".
In a later statement Lactalis confirmed the extended recall and pledged to find and eradicate the causes of the salmonella contamination.
French President Emmanuel Macron added his voice to calls for those responsible to be punished.
After Leclerc last Tuesday, many other big distributors announced yesterday that they sold products from the withdrawn lots: 434 baby milk packages and cereal products from Carrefour, 384 milk packages from Systeme U and 52 from Auchan.
But several French retailers admitted this week that they had continued to sell the manufacturer's affected products even after the ban.
Salmonella infections can be life-threatening, particularly for young children, and the recall risks damaging Lactalis in China.
France is one of the major exporters of food, such as wine and dairy products.
Lactalis spokesperson Michel Nalet, during a Thursday press conference, offered no clear explanation for what went wrong, but said that the scale of the recall was unprecedented in the dairy industry and that the group was investigating. "I think this (further recall) is the strongest guarantee we can give".
According to a report published after the recall, French food safety inspectors failed to detect salmonella contamination at a plant belonging to Lactalis, three months before the company carried out a major recall of baby milk.
In France, 35 infected children have been reported, and among the 18 who were hospitalised, all have been released and are doing fine, the health agency said.