Multinational food and drink company Nestlé announced on Thursday the permanent closure of its Buitoni factory in the northern French town of Caudry, which was at the centre of a health scandal involving pizzas contaminated with E. coli bacteria.
As previously reported, about a year ago several consumers fell ill after eating the pizzas, which were also sold in Belgium.
The case had come to light after health authorities noted an increase in kidney failure in children, due to E. coli contamination. Later, the French health authorities established a link between the consumption of frozen pizzas from the factory and the deaths of two children. Sales plummeted after the news broke.
The contaminated frozen pizza, specifically the Fraîch'Up flavoured product, was massively recalled after causing 75 cases of serious poisoning in France in children aged 1 to 18 years old. Nestlé previously stated that contamination of the flour used was the most likely explanation for the presence of the bacteria in the pizzas.
A line producing raw dough was suspected of having caused the poisoning. At the end of December 2022, Nestlé tried to restart production at the plant, leaving the contaminated production line out of service. A limited production run began in December and plans were made to restart production fully this year.
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In a press release sent to the AFP by Nestlé the Buitoni factory will now be entirely closed, citing a drop in sales. Customers were reluctant to purchase the frozen pizzas made by the brand after the fatal poisonings.
“No layoffs will be announced before 31 December 2023,” Nestlé specified. The group said that it is currently attempting to find “a solid and lasting recovery solution for the factory” and will work to offer the factory’s 140 employees alternative employment within the company.