The E.coli scarecrow bypasses France. Two children died after frozen pizza

“We have withdrawn the Buitoni pizza, we only sell ours”, shows me the salesman of the empty shelves of the Monoprix supermarket in the Belleville district of Paris. “We didn’t leave any species here. Also so that it doesn’t offend anyone.”

It was this pizza that claimed the lives of two children in France. Around fifty other people showed signs of Escherichia coli poisoning after eating the Fraîch’Up Buitoni frozen pizza.

Only batches of defective Kinder chocolates had to disappear from the counters, others can still be sold

Photo: Marie Sýkorová, News

“It just came to our knowledge at the time. Of course, I trust the food, and I guess it’s okay. But it’s terrible,” said Claire, 50. “It’s better to buy everything fresh,” he adds.

The Buitoni brand, which belongs to the Nestlé group, has factories mainly in the north of the country. The local prefecture has already decided to close the company and stop the production of pizzas in the village of Caudry. The regulations fell after serious hygiene shortcomings were identified.

The factory was visited by two inspections from the Civil Protection Department (DDPP) at the end of March. The problems were also confirmed by some employees who described the working environment of French media production chains (CNews, JDF).

There was mold on the walls of the factory, cigarette butts and rubbish on the floor. The factory premises were not separated and therefore in no way secure. According to hygienists, this absolutely degrades the work with food and guarantees hygiene standards.

Kinder Candy

Photo: Marie Sýkorová, News

The management of the company, led by Nestlé, through its spokesman Pierre-Alexander Tuelie, said that the pizza samples taken from the production line were all negative. Thus, according to their witnesses, E. coli was not present in the food.

Kinder Chocolate Salmonella

However, two other cases of food poisoning have occurred in France in recent weeks. After Buitoni pizza, it was salmonella in Kinder chocolate and listeria bacteria in Graindorge cheese.

Kinder chocolate is just some of the types, such as surprise eggs or chocolate candies. The major French food chains must inform them and remove them from these products.

At least in the bigger ones, that’s true. In addition, they display information leaflets where one can read which assortment is covered by the ban and which is no longer. “How come you still have them on the shelves?” I ask Hicham, head of the confectionery department at Monoprix. “You have on the flyer that the ban applies to 125 gram and 300 gram packs. But do you offer it here?

However, the ban only applies to a certain batch with a specific expiration date. “This package with the expiry date is not covered by the ban, look, only those until the end of August 2022,” he explains. “You scared me,” he laughs, “we don’t want to have any problems here, so we check everything a few times and get it out of the shops.”

Unintentional Murder and Class Action by Parents

Poisoning by ingestion of certain products in France occurred mainly in children and two cases in people over 90 years of age. Forty-eight children and adolescents are between 7 and 17 years old, with a predominance of children under 7 years old.

The cases appeared in France in the second half of February. At that time, however, the French authorities had not yet spoken of specific foods or brands. Now, symptoms of poisoning have appeared in up to 11 French regions, most often in the north of the country. Some parents are considering taking legal action or filing a class action lawsuit against Buitoni.

Warning of batches that may contain defective bacteria.

Photo: Marie Sýkorová, News

In France, most companies carry out the checks themselves. The samples are then sent to national laboratories. “The company has an obligation to inform about the infection or the bacteria”, explained Karine Jacquemart of Foodwatch France to franceinfo. The State then informs about contaminated food on the SignalConso site.

A company that does not inform about its infected food faces a fine of up to 600,000 euros (15 million crowns) and responsible management of up to 5 years in prison. Thanks to inspections, more than 4,300 infected foods appear each year, most often dairy products and meat.

But it’s not enough. There are few inspections (there were 144,000 in 2019), as well as a shortage of inspectors (6,000). In France, this has raised questions about greater and more stringent food control, especially for multinational food giants.

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