French health officials have confirmed 50 cases of E. coli linked to a type of Nestlé frozen pizza.

Of these infections, 48 were caused by E. coli O26 and two by E. coli O103, according to Santé publique France, the French public health agency.

Another 25 cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) and Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) infections are still being investigated. HUS is a type of kidney failure associated with E. coli infections that can result in lifelong, serious health problems and death.

Buitoni brand Fraîch’Up pizzas sold since June 2021 were withdrawn and recalled in mid-March after Nestlé was warned about the potential presence of E. coli O26 in dough used to make them.

Of the 50 patients, 48 are children and two are adults. They fell ill between Jan. 18 and March 14. The two adults are older than 90, with one having developed HUS.

Sick children are between 1 and 17 years old with a median age of 7. Twenty are females and 28 are males. Two youngsters died but it is not known if they ate the pizzas and their deaths are under investigation.

Eleven patients live in Hauts-de-France, eight in Nouvelle Aquitaine, seven in Pays de la Loire, six in Bretagne and Ile-de-France, three in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, two each in Bourgogne Franche-Comté, Grand Est, Occitanie and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur and one in Centre Val-de-Loire.

Production halted and further fallout
Buitoni has suspended production and said it will not restart until the cause of the contamination has been identified so that the necessary corrective measures can be taken.

French media reported local officials blocked pizza production at the factory in Caudry since the start of April based on findings from two inspections. Authorities have also opened an investigation into the incident.

Santé publique France, the Directorate General for Food (DGAL), Directorate General for Competition, Consumption and the Repression of Fraud (DGCCRF), and Directorate General for Health are continuing epidemiological, microbiological and traceability work.

Consumers who purchased Fraîch’Up frozen pizzas have been advised not to eat them and throw them away. Expiration dates range from June 1, 2022, to March 31, 2023. Distribution includes at least 20 countries, mainly in Africa, but also Slovenia, Belgium and Luxembourg.

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