Nestle GM Speaks Out About E. Coli Report

Source of Article:

08/07/09 6:38 pm   |   reporter: Sarah Bloom   producer: Amy Foster


Danville, VA - In eight days, Nestle says its refrigerated cookie dough will be back on store shelves. The company recalled more than three million packages two months ago after the FDA said the product was a potential cause of an E.coli outbreak

On Friday, the General Manager spoke out for the first time since the recall. Part of the conversation with ABC 13 was how this has affected business since the FDA says E. coli sickened 70 people in 29 states, but another, more important part is how this recall has changed their business practices.

General Manger of Nestle Baking, Paul Bakus said his initial reaction when he heard about the E. coli investigation was, “it can't be us!"

Still, Nestle officials decided to recall the dough, leaving 250 workers in the Danville plant, to wonder if they'd continue working.

"In this economy and these times, that's the last thing we wanted to do is shut our factory down and keep people from working. So it was the right decision from the consumer's sake, but a tough one for the employees," Bakus said.

Eventually, employees learned they could work some hours in the pasta manufacturing half of the plant, while FDA officials scoured the cookie dough side, looking for any evidence that an E. coli outbreak started here.

"We went through the entire factory, tore it apart, cleaned it, tore it apart, cleaned it," Danville plant manager Jan Harris said.
More then a thousand swabs later, Nestle says it still doesn't really have answers.

"We did find one package of our finished food cookie dough that had e. coli, but it was not the same strain that made people sick. So, we really don't know whether our packaging and our product was responsible, but the reality is that it could have been," Bakus said.

That "could have" is s why Nestle says they've decided to increase their testing. "On some of the inbound ingredients, we're running 100 tests a day." Bakus said.

But those decisions didn't come cheaply.  "We estimate the cost to be around $30-50 million. But, it's not so much the cost that I'm worried about, it's getting the product back on the shelves and regaining consumer confidence."

Nestle Officials say the new dough has a blue "new batch" burst label in the upper right hand corner of the packaging .

As for the Danville plant, we’re told employees are working seven days a week to catch up on cookie production. It's led to the creation of about 66 temporary jobs.


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