Nestlé France defends the cleaning process at its Caudry factory

Nestlé France defends the cleaning process at its Caudry factory

Six months after the health scandal of Buitoni pizzas contaminated with E. coli at the Caudry factory (North), an investigation by the Radio France Investigation Cell broadcasts the testimonies of employees this Saturday. They denounce a reduction in cleaning time and the use of flours that are more sensitive to contamination. What Nestlé France denies through one of its spokespersons in AFP.

The group said on Saturday that the time spent cleaning the production lines at the Buitoni factory in Caudry had not changed since “the internalization of cleaning” in 2015, in reaction to employee statements reported by France Inter. .

A very reduced cleaning time?

“At the end of each production cycle, the lines are completely shut down and cleaned following a strict 4 hour and 45 minute process, which includes a cleaning phase, then disinfection and finally a water rinse, the effectiveness of which is monitored through systematic controls microbiological sampling in different strategic areas of the site,” a spokesperson for the group told AFP.

Dans une enquête diffusée samedi sur France Inter, des salaries de l’usine de manufacture de pizzas de Caudry affirm that after 2015, the production times practically doubled as the nettoyage times drastically decreased, passing «from 8 hours to 4:45 ” per day.

While Nestlé does not dispute this duration, it states that the actual time spent cleaning has not changed: prior to 2015, cleaning was handled by a service provider, which took place between 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., with a team of five people; since the internalization, at least ten people have been assigned to the cleaning, in a shorter period, it was explained.

One of the worst health scandals in recent years

This Buitoni factory in Caudry is at the center of one of the worst health scandals in France in recent years. As a reminder, on March 18, Nestlé closed two production lines. On April 1, the North Prefecture banned the activity of the Caudry factory, after the health authorities announced that they had established a link between the consumption of Fraich’Up pizzas and several serious cases of contamination by the Escherichia coli bacteria.

These pizzas are suspected of having caused the death of two children. Judicial information was opened in particular for manslaughter and involuntary injuries, as well as for the commercialization of a product that is dangerous to health and that endangers others.

Several inspections had denounced “the presence of rodents” and the “lack of maintenance and cleaning of the manufacturing, storage and transit areas” of the factory. In 2012 the presence of “mold” and “rust” was noted, in 2020 that of “cobwebs” on the ceiling of the bakery, “greasy and oily” material or even dirt “accumulated” in the ventilation duct. Hygiene conditions were considered to be in “very marked deterioration” in March 2022 when inspectors returned there “as part of the official health alert”.

Nestlé France did not respond on all points

Employees told France Inter that the internalization of cleaning, while the pace of production was accelerating, had led to a concentration on cleaning the production line and the machines, to the detriment of the rest, “such as the walls and the roofs”. Employees also questioned the decision to close only one week a year instead of three, claiming that the flour silos had not been cleaned for seven years.

On this point, without commenting on the silos, Nestlé France states that the duration of the annual closure is variable and is not only dedicated to cleaning, but also to the maintenance of the site.

If to date the origin of the contamination is unknown, the head of Nestlé France, Christophe Cornu, had declared in mid-July that he would carry out “in-depth investigations into the flours used in the Fraîch’Up line”, in an interview with the Figaro. He then presented his “apologies” to the families of the children affected by the contamination and announced the creation of a “support fund for victims”.

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