“We are approaching this reopening by continuing to be part of a process of evidence and transparency to all,” Nestlé responded.
The northern prefecture on Friday approved the partial resumption of production at the Buitoni pizza factory in Caudry (north) of the Nestlé group, at the heart of a serious health scandal, which had been closed for nine months. The line that produces raw dough pizzas from the Fraîch’Up range, suspected of causing the death of two children and the poisoning of dozens of other Escherichia coli bacteria, will remain closed. On the other hand, the prefect of the North announced in a press release on Friday that, in a decree with immediate effect, he had approved the reopening of “the line of pizzas with cooked dough, exclusively“, considering that on this part of the plant, “control of pizza production conditionswas reached.
“This restart follows a process of several months, in consultation with the authorities, to meet detailed specifications on the safety of our supplies, our products and on a plan to modernize the facility.“Nestlé responded to AFP.”We approach this reopening by continuing to be part of a process of evidence and transparency to all“, the group added, specifying that”the conditions for recovery“would be”communicated over the next few days“. “This is what we’ve been waiting for for months, so we’re happy. It’s going in the right direction“, delighted Stéphane Derammelaere, Force Ouvrière delegate at the factory. “After that is a step. We still need consumers to come back and buy our products.»
Public Health France (SPF) and the Fraud Prevention Department (DGCCRF) were warned in February 2021 of an increase in cases of kidney failure in children linked to contamination with Escherichia coli. On March 18, Nestlé had recalled its pizzas and closed the two production lines, and on April 1, the prefecture had banned all activity there, as health authorities had established a link between the consumption of Fraîch’Up pizzas and several serious cases of E. .coli contamination . Following searches in Caudry and in Nestlé’s headquarters in Hauts-de-Seine, a judicial investigation was opened in mid-May, in particular for involuntary manslaughter of one person and involuntary injuries concerning 14 others.
The factory had been closed due toanomalies in terms of hygiene in premises and food (…) and in terms of food safety“, the prefecture had recently reminded AFP, without detailing these irregularities. According to her, Nestlé, owner of the Buitoni brand, only intended to resume production of pizzas with cooked dough.
“Lack of maintenance”
This recovery was conditioned by various operations of “maintenance, cleaning-disinfection“, and”strengthening the health control plan“, the prefecture had specified. In July, the head of Nestlé France, Christophe Cornu, presented in our columns his “excusesto the families of the affected children and announced the creation of avictim support fund“. Nestlé France had indicated that it had taken more than 2,000 samples and had not detected bacteria on the production lines and their environment (walls, grids, etc.), but had indeed detected the bacteria on frozen pizzas produced between October 2021 and February 16, 2022 .
According to internal analyzes carried out by the company,the most likely hypothesis” is it “flour contamination with E.coli STEC bacteria“, of the same type as that found in the pizzas at the origin of the contamination. Other possible causes have also been put forward, such as cleaning and hygiene conditions, following numerous warnings in the past and incriminating testimony from employees.
Health authority inspections for several years had reported “the presence of rodents” and “lack of maintenance and cleaning of manufacturing, storage and passage areasin the factory according to the prefectural decree of 1 April. In October, Nestlé chairman Paul Bulcke said he would leave “To the bottomof the question to understand what happened at the Caudry factory.