French prosecutors have launched a preliminary criminal investigation after E. coli infections linked to a pizza factory for Nestle’s (NESN.S)Buitoni brand could have led to the death of one person.
An investigation was opened on Thursday on charges of the involuntary manslaughter of one person, the injuring of 14 others and breaches of food safety requirements, a spokesperson for the Paris prosecutor’s office said.
Public Health France and the National Reference Center (CNR) E. coli and its associated laboratory (Institut Pasteur, Paris, and Microbiology Laboratory of the Robert Debré Hospital, Paris), in conjunction with the Directorate General for Food, the Directorate General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Prevention, and in coordination with the Directorate General for Health, have been investigating since 02/10/2022 an increase in the number of cases of haemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) pediatric infections and Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) infections.
The epidemiological, microbiological and traceability investigations carried out since that date have confirmed a link between the occurrence of these grouped cases and the consumption of frozen pizzas from the Buitoni brand Fraîch’Up range contaminated with STEC bacteria. On 03/18/2022, the company proceeded with the withdrawal-recall of all the pizzas in the Fraîch’Up range, marketed since June 2021 and the authorities asked the people who hold these pizzas not to consume them and to destroy them.
The total number of HUS cases linked to the consumption of these pizzas has stabilized since the withdrawal-recall. Other reports of STEC infection are investigated as part of routine surveillance. To date, these reports are not linked to grouped cases or consumption of Fraîch’Up pizzas.
As of 04/05/2022, 56 confirmed cases have been identified, of which 54 are linked to STEC O26 strains, and 2 to STEC O103 strains.
These 56 cases occurred in 55 children and 1 adult, who presented symptoms between 18/01/2022 (week 3) and 05/04/2022 (week 14) (Figure 1). The epidemic peak is in week 7 (14/02 to 20/02) and week 9 (28/02 to 06/03), with 10 cases each of these weeks.
These 56 cases occurred in 12 regions of metropolitan France: Hauts-de-France (12 cases), Ile-de-France (9 cases), New Aquitaine (8 cases), Pays de la Loire (7 cases), Brittany ( 6 cases), Grand Est (3 cases), Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (3 cases), Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes (2 cases), Occitanie (2 cases), Center Val-de-Loire (2 cases) , Bourgogne Franche-Comté (1 case) and Normandy (1 case) (Figure 2).
The 55 sick children are aged from 1 to 17 years with a median age of 6 years; 25 (45%) are female; 48 (87%) presented with HUS, 7 (13%) with STEC gastroenteritis. Two children died. The adult did not present with HUS.
My French is a bit rusty, so I missed the article on the former employee with a lot of very nasty photos. Here is the translation and the photos.
RMC has obtained images of the Buitoni factory in Caudry (Nord) where the pizzas of the “Fraich’Up” range are produced, accused by the health authorities of being the cause of the poisoning with the bacteria E.Coli of dozens of children and the death of two of them.
Health authorities confirmed on Wednesday the link between Buitoni pizzas and the serious food poisoning of dozens of children, contaminated by the E.Coli bacteria.
It is in the Caudry factory, in the North, that the offending pizzas, those of the Fraich’Up range from Buitoni , are produced . Contaminations which shock but do not surprise a former employee, who left about a year ago, after 18 months at the Caudry factory, and who transmitted images of catastrophic hygiene conditions to RMC.
“We think it’s sanitized, everything is regulated. It’s supposed to be perfect but it’s not the reality, a lot of things are being hidden from us. I thought it was going to be fixed but there was no no change”, testifies this former employee , who had alerted his management and an independent media, ” Mr Mondialisation “.
“For 18 months, I talked about it and I was often told that ‘yes’, I was right and that precisely, they were seeing that and that it was going to change, but basically nothing was moving forward” , explains the former employee of Buitoni to RMC.
“When you see mushrooms on the wall, you know it’s not okay,” he says. “The paint on the metal bars was peeling off. There were bits of food that remained in some places for several days, several weeks,” laments the former Buitoni employee.
“In sauce recovery bins, you could find cigarette butts. Where the flour is sent on the carpets, so that the dough does not stick, there were mealworms. Most people did not wash not the hands, even coming back from the toilets. There was a cross contamination which was clear, it even surprises me that there was no accident before”, describes the former employee.
“In the United States, Escherichia coli O157:H7 causes ≈73,000 infections and 60 deaths annually (1). Infection progresses to hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) in 2% to 15% of cases (2).”
UPDATE: In France, STEC surveillance is based only on HUS in children younger than 15, so it only catches the most severe cases of E. coli infection – LINK
So, why is flour the likely vector of this E. coli Outbreak?
According to the CDC, flour doesn’t look like a raw food, but most flour is raw. That means it hasn’t been treated to kill germs that cause food poisoning, such as E. coli. These harmful germs can contaminate grain while it’s still in the field or flour while it’s being made. Steps like grinding grain and bleaching flour don’t kill harmful germs—and these germs can end up in flour or baking mixes you buy at the store. You can get sick if you eat unbaked dough or batter made with flour containing germs.
We have seen these flour E. coli Outbreaks several times over the last “Baker’s Dozen” years.
Nestle Toll House Cookie Dough: As of Tuesday, June 30, 2009, 72 persons infected with a strain of E. coli O157:H7 with a particular DNA fingerprint have been reported from 30 states. Of these, 51 have been confirmed by an advanced DNA test as having the outbreak strain; these confirmatory test results are pending on the others. The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Arizona (2), California (3), Colorado (6), Connecticut (1), Delaware (1), Georgia (1), Iowa (2), Illinois (5), Kentucky (2), Massachusetts (4), Maryland (2), Maine (3), Minnesota (6), Missouri (1), Montana (1), North Carolina (2), New Hampshire (2), New Jersey (1), Nevada (2), New York (1), Ohio (3), Oklahoma (1), Oregon (1), Pennsylvania (2), South Carolina (1), Texas (3), Utah (4), Virginia (2), Washington (6), and Wisconsin (1). Ill persons range in age from 2 to 65 years; however, 65% are less than 19 years old; 71% are female. Thirty-four persons have been hospitalized, 10 developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS); none have died. Reports of these infections increased above the expected baseline in May and continue into June.
Flour: As of September 5, 2016, 63 people infected with the outbreak strains of STEC O121 or STEC O26 were reported from 24 states: Alabama (1), Arkansas (1), Arizona (3), California (3), Colorado (4), Iowa (2), Illinois (4), Indiana (1), Massachusetts (3), Maryland (1), Michigan (4), Minnesota (7), Missouri (1), Montana (2), Nebraska (1), New York (4), Oklahoma (3), Oregon (1), Pennsylvania (2), Tennessee (1), Texas (2), Virginia (3), Washington (5) and Wisconsin (4). Illnesses started on dates ranging from December 21, 2015 to September 5, 2016. Ill people range in age from 1 year to 95, with a median age of 18. Seventy-six percent of ill people were female. Seventeen ill people were hospitalized. One person developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure, and no deaths were reported.
All Purpose Flour: As of July 11, 2019, a total of 21 people infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O26 were reported from 9 states: California (1), Connecticut (1), Massachusetts (2), Missouri (1), New Jersey (1), New York (7), Ohio (5), Pennsylvania (2) and Rhode Island (1).Illnesses started on dates ranging from December 11, 2018 to May 21, 2019. Ill people range in age from 7 to 86 years, with a median age of 24. Seventy-one percent of ill people were female. Of 20 people with information available, 3 (15%) were hospitalized. No deaths were reported.
Cake Mix: As of July 27, 2021, 16 people infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O121 have been reported from 12 states: Illinois (2), Indiana (1), Iowa (2), Massachusetts (1), Michigan (1), Nebraska (2), Ohio (2), Oregon (1), South Carolina (1), Utah (1), Virginia (1) and Washington (1). Illnesses started on dates ranging from February 26, 2021 to June 21, 2021. Sick people range in age from 2 to 73 years, with a median age of 13, and 100% are female. Of 16 people with information available, 7 have been hospitalized. One person has developed a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), and no deaths have been reported.
1. Mead PS, Slutsker L, Dietz V, McCaig LF, Bresee JS, Shapiro C, et al. Food-related illness in the United States. Emerg Infect Dis. 1999;5:607–25. 10.3201/eid0505.990502.
2. Dundas S, Todd WT, Stewart AI, Murdoc PS, Chaudhuri AKR, Hutchinson SJ. The central Scotland Escherichia coli O157:H7 outbreak: risk factors for hemolytic uremic syndrome and death among hospitalized patients. Clin Infect Dis. 2001;33:923–31. 10.1086/322598.
And, there have been more outbreaks and recalls.