Victims of contaminated Buitoni pizzas, parents from Occitanie testify: “I did not know how to protect my children from a piece of pizza”

the essential
A family from Hérault saw their life changed when their children aged 5 and 10 were poisoned by E.coli bacteria after eating a Buitoni pizza. They suffer from severe kidney damage. Testimony.

Aurélie, 34, and her husband John, 40, led “a normal family life”. Everything was turned upside down when their two sons fell seriously ill, poisoned by the E. coli bacteria via Buitoni pizzas, a brand of the food giant Nestlé.

With the parents of around fifty other children with kidney failure linked to E.coli contamination, this couple from Hérault filed a complaint. So that “no child ends up in the hospital for a simple piece of pizza”, they confided, during a long interview in Montpellier, an hour’s drive from their home. The two boys of Aurélie Micouleau and John Delpech have developed what scientists call hemolytic and uremic syndromes (HUS), which particularly affect young children.

Between medical appointments, overwhelmed by feelings of guilt and helplessness, the couple, who also have a 12-year-old daughter, have been living “like zombies” for two months. “First, there was the five-year-old”, the youngest, who “started to have a stomach ache, to vomit, to have diarrhea”, remembers Aurélie. “Simple gastro”, answers initially the family doctor.

A few days later, the child is however taken to the emergency room. “There, we did not understand what was happening to us. We are told about dialysis, kidney disease, that it can go up to the heart, the lungs, the brain, and that there will be lifelong consequences, ”continues the young mother at home. The vital prognosis is at this time engaged and the boy placed on dialysis. When he woke up, “he was crying, he was screaming: Mom, stop hurting me”.

New shock, in the wake, when their 10-year-old son is hospitalized with the same symptoms.

“Race for profit”

The two boys have now returned home. But the damage to the kidneys is irreversible, assures John, who put his commercial activity on hold: “No doctor is able to tell us if their condition will deteriorate in a month or in twenty years”.

On March 18, Nestlé announced the withdrawal-recall of Buitoni pizzas from the Fraîch’Up range, after being informed of the presence of the bacteria in the dough of a product. These pizzas, distributed in 23 countries, correspond to those purchased by the couple. In France, 53 cases are now confirmed according to the latest point from Public Health France. Investigations are underway for 26 others. Two children have died, although the connection to the pizzas has not been confirmed.

Searches took place in the factory.
Photo: AFP

On March 22, an investigation for “manslaughter”, “deception” and “endangering the lives of others” was opened at the public health center of the Paris prosecutor’s office. In early April, the prefect of the North banned the production of pizzas at the Buitoni factory in Caudry, near Cambrai. The inspections “highlighted a degraded level of food hygiene control”.

“I’m waiting for justice to do its job. Let’s look at why we came to this, why they took so long to close the plant. It’s still big groups, I don’t see how we can accept having factories in this state”, John Delpech is indignant, denouncing the “race for profit at all costs”.

The Buitoni factory in Caudry in the North.

The Buitoni factory in Caudry in the North.
Photo: AFP

“Buitoni, in its willingness to cooperate and in respect for the suffering of families, continues to seek all possible origins of this bacterium”, reacted on Friday a spokesperson for Buitoni, to whom had expressed the criticisms and questions of the couple: “This situation is all the more intolerable for us as children are concerned”.

With their lawyer, Me Pierre Dubuisson, and the other families concerned, the couple is determined to “go to the end of the criminal proceedings”, whatever compensation they could obtain: the money “is not going to bring back the kidneys of my children,” said Aurélie Micouleau. “It was I who took this pizza from the freezer, it was I who cooked it, I can still see myself giving it to them at the table”, she regrets: “Our role for us is is to protect them, and I failed to protect my children from a piece of pizza”.

Leave a Comment