“I didn’t know it clearly, but I participated in canning salmonella.” This former executive of the Lactalis factory in Craon says he was not surprised when the contaminated infant milk scandal broke in 2017. The investigative media Disclose looked into this case, and gathered documents and exclusive testimonials. Extract from a survey to be seen in “Special Envoy” in October 22, 2020.
We remember the scandal of contaminated infant milk. In December 2017, thirty-eight babies were contaminated by milk powder manufactured in the Lactalis factory in Craon, in Mayenne. Two hundred families have filed a complaint against the dairy giant. The Lactalis group was sued for unintentional injury, endangering the life of others and aggravated deception.
“Production tool in poor condition”, “cleaning faults”
For this investigation to be seen in “Special Envoy” on October 22, 2020, Disclose journalists consulted the report of the Directorate General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF) included in the judicial file. He lists the many failures in the Craon plant and points to a “production tool considered in poor condition” as well as “cleaning faults, factors favoring contamination”. “The frequency of internal hygiene and food safety audits is low,” adds the document.
The journalists also collected exclusive testimonies. Thus, a former executive of the Craon factory affirms, anonymously, that he was not surprised by the salmonella contamination. According to him, “The scandal was inevitable. Everything was conducive to that, in fact, really. (…) I did not know it clearly, but I participated in canning salmonella ”.
“Mix clean products with not very clean products”
This manager says he denounced, as soon as he arrived in the factory, certain practices that he believed to be a risk for the consumer. In particular the reopening of “Some cans of milk because the quality was not good. Sometimes it was a bacterial problem, meaning that this batch exceeded the norm. If it did not exceed too much, we reopened. We mix with a milk which is very good, and in the end, that makes us an average milk. (…) All that is governed by the price, in fact ”.
But ask his teams to “Mix clean products with not very clean products” posed “a problem” to the old frame. He says he was pressured and offered a conventional break. He ended up leaving the food industry.
Did the contamination take place at the time of canning?
Was it when the powdered milk was canned that the contamination took place? This is one of the hypotheses raised by the judicial inquiry. At the time, Lactalis invoked an accident during work in the factory. In its response to the authors of this survey, the agrifood group claims to have since introduced a new health control plan.
At the end of 2019, Emmanuel Besnier, the very discreet boss of this multinational, was placed in police custody. He came out free. The case is still ongoing.
Extract from “Lactalis above the laws?”, an investigation by Marianne Kerfriden, Inès Léraud, Geoffrey Livolsi, Mathias Destal, Sébastien Sega / Disclose to be seen on October 22 in “Special Envoy”.
You can read the full survey on Disclose.
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