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The profit virus behind food scandals

Justice is moving forward. Three months after the outbreak of the Buitoni and Kinder food scandals, an investigating judge has been in charge since mid-May of a judicial investigation for homicide and involuntary injuries concerning Fraich’Up pizzas contaminated with E. coli bacteria, suspected of to have caused the death of two children and to have intoxicated 54 others. As for chocolate products from a Belgian Ferrero factory and withdrawn from the market in a hurry just before Easter, the Paris prosecutor’s office in turn opened an investigation on June 9 after complaints denouncing salmonella contamination. If the investigations progress, nothing moves on the other hand at the industrialists, who prefer to preserve their processes rather than to prevent new scandals, alerts the CGT federation of the food industry.

These scandals are not the results of “bad luck”ironically Julien Huck, general secretary of the union, but those of a deliberate economic policy, centered on the unbridled profitability suffered by consumers and workers. Remember that it is essentially large globalized companies (Lactalis, Nestlé, Ferrero, etc.) that are at the center of the scandals. » In question, the productivist management methods. “Since 2012 and the implementation of lean management, which had already done so much damage at France Telecom and in the automotive industry, we have increased production times by cutting back on “unproductive” ones such as training or cleaning.analyzes Maryse Treton, federal secretary of the CGT agro. At Nestlé, we have gone from cycles of 16 hours of production and 8 hours of cleaning to 27 and 7 hours. » All while making employment more precarious, with a quarter of the staff on average, but 50% at Nestlé. Symptom of this turning point: the disappearance of hygienists, workers specializing in health prevention.

Gaëtan Mazin, Fnaf-CGT representative in the dairy industry, describes the ongoing processes: “The high-speed machines now produce 80,000 pots of yoghurt per hour. The workforce being constantly reduced, a supervisor leads two or three. He must supply them, analyze the failure to prepare the fastest maintenance intervention and carry out self-checks, without really having the time. » However, in the Buitoni scandal, this self-monitoring system instituted by industrialists seems to have been shipwrecked. In 2015, in the Caudry plant, “more than 70 points of dysfunction had been identified by our CGT elected representatives at the CHSCT. Those requiring financial investment have been relegated to oblivion”, notes Julien Huck. As for the controls carried out by the repression of fraud, they do not seem to weigh very heavily either in the face of the logic of profitability. As early as 2012, DGCCRF agents had pointed to “shortcomings” and sent to Nestlé in 2020 a“followed warning”. If corrective measures had been taken afterwards, they do not appear to have prevented the contamination.