Seven months after the start of the Buitoni frozen pizza scandal contaminated by the E.Coli bacterium, 48 families represented by the Toulouse lawyer, Pierre Debuisson and his father Guy, are claiming 250 million euros from the giant Nestlé for the damage inflicted on their families. children. A summons for “gross negligence” was filed with the court of Nanterre.
It was the kids’ favorite frozen pizza. The one with four cheeses. It has become the nightmare of dozens of families who bought and served, with confidence, the Buitoni pizza (Nestlé group) from the Fraîch’Up range on the plates of their young gourmets, in January and February 2022. Two died from it. for a few digested parts. Others will keep lifelong consequences in this case of poisoning with the bacterium Escherichia coli (E.Coli) which has everything from the biggest health scandal of recent years, in France.
“How in 2022, by feeding our children, we take the risk of poisoning them!”, indignant Aurélie, this mother from Montpellier whose two boys, 5 and 10 years old, are now suffering from haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) after extensive kidney and liver damage. Seven months after the start of this affair, the Toulouse lawyer, Pierre Debuisson, with the support of his father, Guy Debuisson, is claiming 250 million euros from the Swiss agrifood giant Nestlé for “gross negligence” in favor of a summons filed with the Nanterre court. A civil procedure which is added to the judicial investigation opened on May 12, in Paris, for “manslaughter and involuntary injuries”.
To date, no indictment has been issued, which the families of the victims deplore. For the Toulouse criminal lawyer, “Nestlé recalled its offending products in March 2022, when officials were fully aware of the cases of serious contamination since January 2022. They waited for the authorities to tell them to stop selling these pizzas when ‘they should have stopped the sales much earlier,’ believes Me Pierre Debuisson, who speaks on behalf of the 55 victims and 48 families in France affected by this scandal. “The summons aims to punish and repair at the height of this unprecedented human tragedy,” he adds.
The pathologies and sequelae observed in young victims are chilling: acute kidney failure, brain abnormalities, abdominal pain, inflammation of the colon, nausea… “Some of these children will no longer be able to play sports”, continues the lawyer. In Nancy, a 12-year-old girl can no longer speak or walk, she is in a neurovegetative stage. The national public health agency gave some answers to families in a letter dated April 7, 2022. “The investigations carried out by the health authorities have made it possible to identify a link between the consumption of Buitoni brand Fraîch’Up pizzas and the occurrence of these clusters”. A causal link is therefore established since the same strain of E.Coli bacteria is found in Buitoni Fraîch’Up pizzas and in the bodies of the victims.
Employees of the Nestlé factory, in Caudry, in the North, where these incriminated pizzas are manufactured, point to negligence in terms of control and hygiene. They evoke flour vats “not cleaned since 2015 because it was necessary to produce more and at a lower cost”. A financial logic that revolts the victims’ lawyer. “Nestlé has sacrificed the food security of the French in a capitalist logic while the agri-food group achieves billions in turnover”. The Swiss giant that we contacted announces the establishment of a support fund “for patients with typical or atypical HUS in 2022”. And to add: “The purpose of this fund is to provide assistance in the form of an exceptional lump-sum allowance to the families of patients with HUS in order to cover costs and loss of income related to the consequences of this disease”. About the contaminations, Nestlé indicates: “The analyzes carried out on all the production lines and their environment did not detect any presence of the bacterium.
In view of these results, the most probable hypothesis would be that of contamination with the E. coli STEC bacterium of the flour, from the last wheat harvest, which we did not detect. Nestlé undertakes to put in place the necessary measures to prevent such a situation from happening again”. The group announces a reopening of the Caudry site in November 2022 but the protocol does not concern, “initially”, the range of Fraîch’Up pizzas”.