FRANCE – Swiss packaged-food giant Nestle has announced the closure of its frozen pizza factory in northern France amid declining sales on the backdrop of an E. coli outbreak last year, Just Food has reported.

The closure follows a fatal E. coli outbreak in February 2022 that linked Buitoni-branded frozen pizzas produced at the factory in northern France to the death of two children and illness of dozens of others.

The contamination probe on rising cases of a haemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) or Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) was announced by France’s national public health agency, Santé Publique France on 25 February last year

On 18 March, Nestlé announced a recall of Fraîch’Up pizzas marketed since June 2021 and suspended operations at the factory in Caudry to allow for investigation.

This was followed by the Paris prosecutor’s office opening an investigation into alleged involuntary manslaughter at the start of April and a criminal inquiry into the incident was opened in May.

Nestlé received the go-ahead in December to reopen one of the plant’s two lines, which was not affected by the recall.

According to the approval, Nestle was supposed to only run the production of pizzas with cooked dough as well as the modernization of certain equipment under the supervision of local authorities.

However, the Swiss giant said it had faced a sharp decline in pizza order forecasts due to an evolving market and the Buitoni crisis hence it has decided to close its doors.

Following a thorough evaluation of different options for the site and meetings with the relevant stakeholders, “Nestlé France met with staff representatives to present plans for the cessation of manufacturing and sales operations at the Société des Produits Alimentaires de Caudry,” the company statement read.

In parallel, Nestlé France has said that it has undertaken a thorough process to identify a robust and sustainable plan to bring new industrial activity to the site.

In addition, the company statement read that Nestlé would offer affected staff at least one opportunity at other sites in France or identify regional opportunities outside the company adding that no redundancies will be notified before Dec. 31, 2023.

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