Nestlé France has agreed to a compensation package for people affected in a 2022 E. coli outbreak.
The agreement between the company and the families of victims was signed at the end of March. The amount has not been made public.
A civil hearing was set to take place in May but has now been canceled. The criminal inquiry into the incident is ongoing.
A total of 56 confirmed and two probable cases with a median age of 6 were sick in the outbreak between mid-January and April 2022 because of contaminated frozen Buitoni Fraîch’Up pizzas. It was the largest E. coli-HUS outbreak ever documented in France.
There were 50 cases of Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), two children died and two others had severe complications. HUS is a type of kidney failure associated with E. coli infections that can result in serious health problems.
Patients were positive for Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) O26:H11 or O103:H2. Only two people were sick from E. coli O103, according to Santé publique France, the country’s public health agency.
STEC O26:H11 and O103:H2 outbreak strains were isolated from pizzas sampled in patients’ homes and at the manufacturing plant. E. coli was also found in the flour used to make pizzas.
“Each claimant will receive an equitable compensation proposal from Nestlé France, subject to a medical assessment that takes into consideration the seriousness of the damage and each situation,” said a Nestlé statement.
“We remain open to listening to them and intend to support them. Rest assured: We take our responsibilities seriously, and we are working hard to ensure that something like this never happens again.
“In the context of the ongoing criminal proceedings, Nestlé France is collaborating with the judicial authorities. It is important for everyone that justice sheds light on what happened, and whatever the outcome, the company will fully assume its responsibilities.”
Lawyer Pierre Debuisson, who represents 63 alleged victims, had initially requested compensation of up to €250 million ($274 million) for his clients.
In late March 2023, Nestlé decided to shut down the factory in Caudry, France, that produced contaminated pizzas. The decision followed a suspension of operations because of a decline in pizza order forecasts.
In March 2022, Nestlé recalled and withdrew the incriminated pizzas, and production at the site was suspended.
In December, Nestlé was allowed to reopen the plant partially. Approval covered the production of pizzas with cooked dough. The line making pizzas with no rebaking of dough, such as the Fraîch’Up range, was not restarted.
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