Nestlé France defends the cleaning process in its Caudry factory

A spokesperson for Nestlé defends the cleaning of the Caudry factory, after testimonies from employees broadcast on France Inter. The activity of the factory was prohibited in the spring, several serious cases of contamination by the bacterium E.coli

Nestlé France said this Saturday that the time spent cleaning production lines at the Buitoni factory in Caudry (Nord), at the heart of a health scandal, had not changed since “the internalization of cleaning” in 2015 , reacting to employee statements released by France Inter.

“At the end of each production cycle, the lines are completely stopped and cleaned according to a strict process lasting 4 hours and 45 minutes, including a cleaning phase, then disinfection and finally a rinsing with water, the effectiveness of which is controlled by systematic microbiological sampling in different strategic areas of the site,” a spokesperson for the group told AFP.

Factory activity banned in April

In a survey broadcast this Saturday on France Inter, employees of the Caudry pizza factory claim that since 2015, production time has practically doubled while cleaning time has drastically decreased, going “from eight hours to four hours forty-five” a day.

If Nestlé does not dispute this duration, it affirms that the actual time devoted to cleaning has not varied: before 2015, an external service provider was responsible for cleaning, carried out between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., with a team of five people; since the internalization, at least ten people have been assigned to cleaning, over a shorter period, it was explained.

This Buitoni factory in Caudry is at the heart of one of the worst health scandals in recent years in France. On March 18, Nestlé had closed two production lines. On April 1, the Nord prefecture banned the activity of the Caudry factory, after the health authorities announced that they had established a link between the consumption of Fraich’Up pizzas and several serious cases of contamination by the bacterium Escherichia coli.

These pizzas are suspected of having caused the death of two children. A judicial investigation was opened in particular for manslaughter and involuntary injuries, as well as the marketing of a product dangerous to health and endangering others.

Inspections had pointed out deficiencies in the factory

Various inspections had reported “the presence of rodents” and the “lack of maintenance and cleaning of manufacturing, storage and passage areas” in the factory. In 2012, the presence of “mold” and “rust” was noted, in 2020 that of “cobwebs” on the ceiling of the bakery, “greasy and oily” material or even dirt “accumulated” in the duct ventilation. Hygiene conditions deemed to be in “very marked deterioration” in March 2022 when the inspectors returned there “as part of the official health alert”.

Employees told France Inter that the internalization of cleaning, while the production rate accelerated, had led to a concentration on cleaning the production line and machines, to the detriment of the rest, “such as for example walls and ceilings”.

Employees also questioned the decision to close only one week annually instead of three, claiming that flour silos had not been cleaned for seven years.

On this point, without commenting on the silos, Nestlé France affirms that the duration of the annual closure is variable and is not only devoted to cleaning, but also to the maintenance of the site.

If the origin of the contamination remains unknown to date, the boss of Nestlé France Christophe Cornu had declared in mid-July to carry out “in-depth investigations on the flours used on the Fraîch’Up line”, in an interview with the Figaro. He then presented his “apologies” to the families of the children affected by contamination and announced the creation of a “victim support fund”.

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