An investigation into involuntary manslaughter and deceitful practices was opened on April 1st after authorities learned of more than 70 infections, which may have caused the deaths of a one-year-old and an 18-year-old.
The search at the Caudry factory operated by Buitoni, which is owned by the Swiss food conglomerate Nestle, was confirmed by the Paris prosecutor’s office, which is leading the investigation.
Nestle announced a recall of the affected Fraiche-Up pizzas on March 18th, and authorities ordered a halt of their production at Caudry, in the Nord département, on April 6th after carrying out two hygiene inspections.
The inspections “revealed a deterioration of food hygiene controls”, the presence of “rodents” and insufficient measures to prevent pests from contaminating a food production site, authorities said in the shutdown order.
Escherichia coli bacteria can lead to severe and long-lasting health complications including acute kidney failure. French authorities say the reports of possible infections began to occur in late February.
Recalls were also ordered in Belgium and Luxembourg, with the affected pizzas distributed in 20 other countries including 15 in Africa, according to the EU’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed.
Buitoni has said it is cooperating with the investigation and promised to take “appropriate measures” in the wake of the outbreak.
The health scare comes after nine European countries reported a total of 150 salmonella cases thought to be linked to a Kinder chocolate factory in Belgium that has since been closed.
“Most cases are children under 10 years of age, with many being hospitalised,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the European Food Safety Authority said in a statement Tuesday.
Kinder’s owner, the Italian confectionery giant Ferrero, has apologised for the outbreak at the height of the Easter holiday season.