Nestlé France announced this Friday, March 3, the suspension of activity at the pizza factory in Caudry (Nord), at the center of a serious health scandal, following a fatal poisoning linked to bacteria found in raw pizza dough.
Perhaps the first step before the definitive closure: Nestlé France announced to employees the suspension of activity at the Bettoni pizza factory in Coudrey (Nord), at the center of a serious health scandal, due to the drop in sales, Friday, 3 March.
The establishment produced pizza with raw dough from the Fraîch’Up chain, which is suspected of causing the death of two children and the poisoning of dozens with the Escherichia coli bacteria.
The factory partially reopened in mid-December 2022 after nine months of closure, but the production line in question never resumed activity. Pizzas could only be topped with cooked dough, which was not affected by the scandal.
Market Dropped 20%
“The frozen pizza market has dropped 20% in one year and this has had a major impact on the Buitoni brand,” explained a spokesman for Nestlé France. He added: “Despite all the efforts made to ensure that the factory restarts in top condition in December 2022, the deterioration in the order forecast has forced Nestlé France to respond.”
The company has so far only announced to workers, during Thursday’s meeting, a “temporary suspension” of activity with immediate effect, but this could be the first step towards a definitive closure of the facilities.
“I think we are definitely heading towards lockdown,” said Caudry Mayor Frédéric Bricout. “What we are asking is that the Nestlé group, a global multibillion-dollar for-profit group, replaces another pizza production producer in Cowdri,” explained the elected official.
Nestlé France said the factory’s employees, who number just under 200, would keep their salaries pending a final decision on its factory.
The French Public Health (SPF) and the Fraud Prevention Department (DGCCRF) were alerted in February 2022 by an increase in the incidence of kidney failure in children, linked to contamination by Escherichia coli.
On March 18, Nestlé recalled the pizza and closed both production lines, and on April 1, the municipality banned all activities there, after health authorities established a link between consumption of Fresh-Up pizza and several serious cases of contamination. E. coli.
After searches in Coudry and Nestlé’s headquarters in Hauts-de-Seine, a judicial investigation was opened in mid-May, in particular into the murder of one person and the involuntary injury of 14 others.
In July, the president of Nestlé France, Christophe Cournot, offered his “apologies” to the families of the affected children and announced the creation of a “Victim Support Fund”.
Nestlé France indicated that it took more than 2,000 samples and did not detect any bacteria in the production lines and their environment (walls, railings, etc.), but detected bacteria present in frozen pizzas produced between October 2021 and February 16. 2022.
To Avoid E. coli Bacteria
According to an internal analysis carried out by the company, the “most likely hypothesis” is that “the flour was contaminated with E. coli STEC”, the same type originally found in the pizza.
Other possible causes, such as cleanliness and hygiene conditions, were also pointed out after several warnings in the past and accusatory statements from employees.
Inspections by health authorities several years ago indicated “the presence of rodents” and “lack of maintenance and cleanliness of the manufacturing, storage and corridor areas” of the factory, according to the provincial decree dated April 1. In October, Nestlé chairman Paul Bulcke said he wanted to get “to the bottom” of the issue to understand what happened at the Cowdrey factory.