Gone-off French cheese blamed for poisoning 300 children in school canteen

Katie Forster
One parent said her child would be avoiding school meals after the scandal: CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP/Getty Images

A dodgy batch of smelly French cheese has been blamed for a mass food poisoning outbreak at schools in Normandy.

An investigation launched after 300 children fell ill in the town of Rouen named the culprit as gone-off cheese served up by school canteens.

One parent said her child would be avoiding school meals after the scandal, telling local media: “I’d prefer to take them to a fast food place”.

Local authorities inspected the producers of the cheese – a soft, mould-ripened local variety called neufchâtel – but were unable to identify the origin of the contamination.

The children began to suffer headaches, vomiting and stomach aches after eating the cheese at 54 different primary schools and nurseries on 27 April.

A survey of 1,000 parents of children in the region, both those affected and not affected by the outbreak, found a “strong association between the consumption of the cheese and the appearance of digestive symptoms”, according to the local health board.