Press Release 04.05.2022

Secrecy and delaying tactics in current food scandals: foodwatch criticises the food control system and demands reforms

  • Transparency and food safety

Two food giants recently failed to protect consumers: 

  • Kinder Surprise eggs from Ferrero are recalled over salmonella fears after at least 150 European people fell ill. Over 120 countries concerned by the recall.
  • Buitoni’s frozen pizzas from Nestlé are linked to at least 75 cases of E. coli. Two children died in France. 

Brussels, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, May 4, 2022: Two food scandals - Kinder Surprise eggs contaminated with salmonella sold in at least 120 countries, and Buitoni’s frozen pizzas linked to at least 75 cases of E.coli - have recently hit the European food industry. For the consumer organisation foodwatch, the incidents are proof of a consumer protection system which has failings. Europe's citizens are repeatedly exposed to avoidable health risks, due to undeveloped practices of prevention and precaution. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the Member States to ensure compliance of businesses with food regulations, but in reality the national authorities lack the equipment and staff, as well as political independence, in order to provide a preventative and transparent protection of the public. Urgent reform is needed to protect safety and health of all citizens. Food producers and public authorities must be obliged by law to make cases public immediately. Cover-ups and delays permitted in the existing food system are enabling avoidable food scandals and risking consumers’ health.

foodwatch is appalled that the current system continues to allow these regular food scandals to happen. The recalls of a product occur when it is already too late: products have already been purchased and often already consumed. 

The recalled Buitoni products have been on the market since June 2021. In the case of Kinder surprise eggs they have been on sale since Christmas. Ferrero only admitted at the beginning of April 2022 to having found salmonella during self-monitoring at a factory in Belgium in December 2021. Had the company reported this to the authorities at the time, as required by law, many of the serious consequences could have been avoided. 

The case of Kinder eggs only became public after the health authorities in United Kingdom came across an unusually high number of salmonella cases and started investigations. On 23 March 2022, the British authorities were able to establish an initial link between the cases and Ferrero products and also informed the company. The authorities in UK confirmed this to foodwatch. Nevertheless, it took almost two weeks, until the beginning of April, until Ferrero started the first public recalls.

"These cases show that the producers Nestlé and Ferrero, despite being giants in the market, cannot be trusted and that the system of quality assurance entrusted to manufacturers is not sufficiently effective. In these two cases, it was the public authorities who sounded the alarm. If Nestlé and Ferrero had strictly followed the law and immediately reported the problem to the monitoring authorities, consumers all over Europe and also in Africa could have been warned much more quickly. These cases show once again the weaknesses in the food safety system", said Suzy Sumner, foodwatch International.

Food scandals will continue to emerge until the shortcomings in the General Food Law and in the enforcement have been addressed through targeted amendments. The recent scandals have made it obvious that the publication obligations of producers and competent authorities are too weak. Therefore, Europe’s consumers are not sufficiently protected from health risks and fraud. The authorities need to reinforce traceability, controls, sanctions and, above all, transparency of information for everything that concerns our food. It is time to break the chain of food scandals, which is repeated to the detriment of our health.
The contaminated products have reached many countries. For Ferrero, more than 120 countries are concerned by the recall. As for Buitoni, foodwatch reveals that the frozen pizzas made in France were also marketed in at least 15 African countries, e.g. Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo (Brazzaville), Ivory Coast and Mali. 

The European law on the Hygiene of Foodstuffs (Reg. 852/2004) imposes an obligation on food industry operators to carry out “hazard analysis” and define “critical control points” (HACCP) to ensure the safety of marketed products. If a company has reason to believe that a foodstuff may be harmful to human health, they are obliged by General Food Law (Reg. 178/2002, Art. 19) to “effectively and accurately inform the consumers of the reason for its withdrawal, and if necessary, recall from consumers products already supplied to them” and to “immediately inform the competent authorities if it considers or has reason to believe that a food which it has placed on the market may be injurious to human health.” Although in the Kinder and Nestlé scandals, manufacturers claim that food safety is their priority - the facts prove that this is not true.