Nestlé is shutting down its Caudry site in France following disappointing sales. This news also comes after an outbreak of E-coli last year which was reportedly linked to a rising number of HUS cases.
HUS is caused by infection as a result of certain strains of E.coli.
The French health authority Sante Publique France made its first statement in February 2022 around rising HUS cases, as an investigation was launched. At the time, it had identified 13 potentially linked cases.
A temporary suspension of production at the Caudry plant was announced after French authorities informed the Buitoni Fraîch’Up team of a possible connection between its pizzas and the outbreak.
The number of cases of HUS grew in number, with Sante Publique France stating: “The epidemiological, microbiological and traceability investigations carried out since that date [10 February 2022] 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 18 March 2022, the company proceeded with the withdrawal-recall of all the pizzas in the Fraîch'Up range, marketed since June 2021.
In a statement around the ongoing HUS investigation at the time, Nestlé said: “We reiterate our deepest sympathy and compassion to the families of the victims and individuals impacted by the Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) outbreak in France.
“At this stage, our investigation and analyses indicate that the most likely source of contamination appears to be the flour used on the specific manufacturing line dedicated exclusively to producing Fraîch’Up pizza.
“We are strengthening our testing and monitoring of ingredients, in particular for E. coli STEC, to ensure that something like this never happens again.
“We have also set up a fund to provide some immediate support to the families and individuals impacted by the HUS outbreak in France in 2022, administered by a local independent organization. The receipt of financial support from this fund will not prejudice the right of anyone impacted by HUS to make any claim for compensation. Following the outcome of the case, Buitoni will fully assume its responsibilities.”
As of 13 April 2022, 53 confirmed cases of HUS were identified, of which 51 were linked to STEC 026 strains and two to STEC 0103 strains.
These 53 cases occurred in 52 children and one adult, with two children dying.
Then on 2 March 2023, another suspension was announced by Nestlé France. In a statement, the company said that order forecasts had been well below expected volumes when the factory reopened in December, whilst the “increasingly competitive frozen pizza market” was evolving in an “inflationary context”.
A Nestlé spokesperson told Food Manufacture it has now proposed a closure of the site: “Following a thorough evaluation of different options for the site and meetings with the relevant stakeholders, on March 30th, Nestlé France has proposed a project of permanent cessation of manufacturing and sales by the Société des Produits Alimentaires de Caudry.
“Nestlé France has committed to finding opportunities for affected employees, either within other Nestlé France entities or in the region, and to working actively to identify a buyer to develop an alternative project for the site.
“This development does not affect the ongoing operation of Nestlé’s pizza business in other markets.”