RED LINE – Pizzas Buitoni, investigation into a scandal

In March 2022, the affair broke out. Different ranges of pizzas from the Buitoni brand (Nestlé) are contaminated with a deadly bacterium from the E.coli family. The authorities are alerted and point the finger at major shortcomings in terms of hygiene. Investigation Red line by Marie Peyraube and Margaux de Frouville.

Sophie and her husband live in Nancy and live today in suffering and worry. On February 14, Sophie prepared Buitoni brand Fraîch’UP pizzas for her two daughters. The next morning, her eldest daughter, Léna, complained of having a stomach ache and fainted five minutes later.

She is hospitalized because infected with E.coli bacteria. His vital prognosis is engaged. Killer toxins damage Lena’s brain. She no longer reacts, no longer speaks and remains paralyzed.

56 cases of poisoning recorded

Today, two children died after consuming the brand’s pizzas. At the end of March, an inspection by the prefecture and the DGCCRF traces the thread of the distribution chain. The Caudry factory (Nord) is responsible for the scandal. The investigation reveals the presence of rodents and the lack of maintenance of the cleaning and manufacturing areas. On March 18, Buitoni withdraws Fraîch’UP products from the shelves. On April 1, the prefect ordered the closure of the factory, which had already been reported in 2020 for breaches of hygiene conditions without any measures being taken.

As early as 2021, an employee had alerted to deplorable hygienic conditions by posting photos on the Internet. The various ingredients were on the floor, mixed with cigarette butts. He also explained that some employees did not wash their hands after going to the bathroom.

A precedent in the United States

Nestlé could have avoided this health scandal. In 2009, in the United States, the group’s cookie dough also showed traces of the E.coli bacterium. The group had then heavily compensated the families of the victims.

Sonia is also one of the victims of the case. Her daughter Mila was hospitalized last April after consuming the brand’s pizza. Today she is better but Nestlé contacted her mother after a report from her. Following the call, Sonia received by email a voucher worth 20 euros, as compensation.

For Maruse Treton, member of the CGT of the food industry, “this type of disaster had to happen”. In 2015, the night cleaning team was abolished, replaced by a production slot. The trade unionist denounces the absence of state control of factories since 1998.

An old frame comes out of the silence

Yasmine Motarjemi, former head of security at Nestlé had several times alerted to overflows between 2000 and 2010, before being dismissed for “difference of opinion”. She notices one day that the workers return with their work clothes in the toilets. “And there, lightning fell on me: ‘why are you asking this question? You don’t understand the business…” she explains.

Complaints have been filed all over France. The health center of the Paris prosecutor’s office is in charge of the investigation. Today, more than 70 families are waiting to be heard by the courts.

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