Nestlé’s discretion in the face of the scandal surrounding sick children who consumed contaminated pizzas

At the Buitoni factory in Caudry (North) after the closure of the production lines on March 30, 2022.

These are broken families. An 8-year-old boy who died in Paris from severe hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). A 12-year-old girl in a vegetative state, unresponsive to environmental stimuli. A newborn baby died eight hours after birth. A 7-year-old child with multiple cardiac arrests. Others have come close to the worst, like this family whose three children, ages 2, 9 and 10, were rushed to emergency hospital between late January and early February and are now suffering as a result.

What these tragedies have in common is that they happened a few days after eating Buitoni’s Fraîch’Up pizzas, made in the same Nestlé factory. The analyzes showed that they were contaminated with bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli).

Also read: Article reserved for our subscribers E. coli bacteria: How Buitoni pizzas were flushed out by health officials

A preliminary investigation was opened on March 22 by the public health department of the Paris prosecutor’s office, specifically for “Danger to others, negligent bodily harm and manslaughter”and on Wednesday, April 13, searches were carried out by the gendarmes of the Central Unit for Combating Environmental Damage and Health at Nestlé’s headquarters in Issy-les-Moulineaux (Hauts-de-Seine), Caudry factory (Nord) and at several others locations.

The French health authority, whose research, carried out with the Pasteur Institute, has confirmed the link between the occurrence of clusters of HUS cases and the consumption of Buitoni pizzas, as of April 13 had identified 53 confirmed cases, including two children who had died, and was investigating twenty-six others . Lawyer Pierre Debuisson, who is defending around forty victims’ families, thinks the response time was too slow: “The first hospital admissions were in January and the factory’s production lines only closed on March 18. The products were allowed to flow and other children to be contaminated. »

DNA verdict

For its part, the Nestlé Group has closed the hatches. Officially, the Swiss giant no longer wants to comment because of the ongoing court proceedings. “This is a step that is part of the investigation. We continue to work fully with the authorities to ensure everything runs smoothly. At this time we are unable to share any further information. We want to reiterate that the safety and quality of our products are our top priority,” he just says.

The Caudry factory ceased production activities on March 18, the same day a press release was sent out announcing the pizza recall. Made a decision “after being informed of the presence of bacteria E. coli in the dough of a frozen pizza from the Fraîch’Up range”. Only the Buitoni brand appears in this press release, which does not mention its owner Nestlé. The Italian company Buitoni, which set up the Caudry site in 1982, no longer exists. It was bought in 1988 by the Swiss group, which ultimately only retained the frozen pizza business.

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