Nestle says in talks to sell French pizza plant linked to E.coli cases
November 13, 2023 11:03 PM
Swiss food giant Nestle said Monday that it was negotiating the sale of a French factory whose frozen pizzas were suspected in deadly food poisonings from E.coli bacteria last year.
Sales of the Buitoni pizza brand have plunged since two children died and dozens more fell ill in 2022 after eating pizzas from its "Fraich'Up" line, according to the company.
Production was halted at the factory in Caudry, northern France, and Nestle said in July that it was hoping to save 125 jobs before shutting the plant completely by the end of this year.
On Monday, the company announced "exclusive talks" for a sale to the Italian group Italpizza, which operates six companies supplying clients in 56 countries.
Health authorities got on the trail of the food poisonings in February 2022 after a spate of kidney failures in children caused by the Escherichia coli bacteria.
Nestle closed both Buitoni production lines in Caudry and issued a recall, saying that in-house testing had found no traces of E.coli in or around the production lines, but acknowledging that frozen pizzas made between October 2021 and February 2022 were contaminated.
The bacteria could have been introduced from the flour used to make the bases, poor hygiene conditions at the factory -- which had received warnings in the past -- or rodents interfering with the food.
Prosecutors opened an investigation for one case of involuntary homicide and 14 more of involuntary bodily harm.
In March, Nestle signed a compensation agreement for the victims' families, whose financial details were not disclosed.