Production at E.coli-contaminated Buitoni factory resumes

Production at E.coli-contaminated Buitoni factory resumes
Frozen pizza. Credit: Maïthé Chini/ The Brussels Times

Production resumed on Wednesday at the Buitoni factory in Caudry in northern France. Run by the Nestlé group, the factory has been shut down for nine months after numerous serious cases of poisoning caused by Escherichia coli bacteria (E.coli) were reported in its frozen pizzas.

As previously reported by The Brussels Times, French health authorities established a link between the consumption of pizzas from the factory and the deaths of two children. The contaminated frozen pizza, specifically those under the “Fraîch'Up” were massively recalled after causing 75 cases of serious poisoning in France in children aged 1 to 18 years-old. The frozen pizzas were also sold in Belgium.

A line producing raw dough was suspected of having caused the poisoning. This line will remain out of service, and will remain so indefinitely. Another line will be restarted following approval by the local prefecture on 16 December, Nestlé said.

A limited run of production will be tested before the Christmas holidays, and after production will resume once again in 2023.

Pizzas previously pulled from sale, including those under the Fiesta, Grandiosa, and Four à Pierre brands, will reappear on French supermarket shelves within three months.

The company is worried what consumers will think about the move. In a comment to the AFP, Stéphane Derammelaere, workforce delegate at the factory, says that he is “worried for the future” and uncertain of “how consumers will react.”

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On 1 December, Nestlé allowed for employees to take early retirement “on a voluntary basis” due to the previous poisoning incident. According to Derammelaere, 40-45 employees out of a total of 185 will take early retirement. Negotiations are also underway to transfer workers to other locations or projects.

Shortly after the poisoning incident, French judicial police opened an investigation against Néstle in connection with involuntary homicide and involuntary injuries caused by the e-coli infection.

The local prefecture blamed a “presence of rodents” and a “lack of maintenance and cleaning” as reasons for the lengthy closure of the factory. Local authorities now say that violations have been remediated.

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