Prosecutors in France have opened a preliminary criminal investigation after E. coli illnesses connected to a pizza factory for Nestle’s Buitoni brand may have resulted in one person’s death.
An inquiry was launched on Thursday on allegations of involuntary murder of one person, wounding 14 others, and violating food safety regulations, according to a representative for the Paris prosecutor’s office.
There was no comment on the issue from Nestle France.
“The managers of Nestle and Buitoni must be brought to justice and it would be intolerable to sweep this affair under the carpet,” said Pierre de Buisson, one of the lawyers of the victims families.
Children who ate the contaminated pizza had brain, heart, and lung ailments, he said, without going into further detail.
Sante Publique France, a health ministry body that examined the incident, announced on May 10 that 56 E.coli cases had been confirmed, with nearly all of the victims aged one to 17 years.
Escherichia coli, sometimes known as E.coli bacteria, is found in the intestines of healthy humans and animals. While many types of the bacteria are innocuous, some can produce severe abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhoea, and vomiting.
After the initial E. coli cases were discovered, Italy’s Buitoni, which produces noodles, ready-made pasta sauces, and pizzas and was acquired by Swiss food conglomerate Nestle in the 1980s, issued a recall of its Fraich’Up pizza line.
“To date, the origin of the bacteria present in the Fraich’Up pizza are still unknown”, Buitoni said in a statement posted on the brand’s French website.
Former employees of the pizza factory where the cases were discovered alerted French media about deplorable hygienic conditions.
“You go out with your shoes to smoke and you come back (to the factory floor) with them. People didn’t wash their hands,” one ex-staffer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, was cited as saying by France’s Liberation newspaper.
The probe was originally disclosed on Thursday by France’s RMC and BFM radio stations.
(Adapted from USNews.com)