FRANCE – Swiss food manufacturing giant Nestlé has revealed that it is in talks with French investment fund FnB about the prospective sale of its France-based mashed potato business Mousline. 

Nestlé had announced back in November that it had launched a strategic review that could end up in the asset being sold. 

In a statement, the Switzerland-based manufacturer says it has entered into “exclusive negotiations” with FnB and said the sale of Mousline could be completed this year.  

Mousline’s factory employs 150 people and is based in Rosieres-en-Santerre in the potato-growing area Somme. 

Its packaged mashed potato products are sold domestically and exported to other markets. 

Nestlé described potential buyer FnB as “a solid partner, dedicated exclusively to supporting French and European SMEs of the food industry.” 

FnB was set up in 2017 by a team of investors and entrepreneurs, including former Unilever executives Olivier Marchand and Valérie Lutt.  

The private-equity firm’s assets include French charcuterie business Lartigue et Fils and Bur Distribution, a France-based manufacturer and trader of deli products. 

Nestlé insisted the deal, if completed, would be part of a “growth and diversification strategy for the Mousline brand, offering new development and innovation perspectives”. 

It suggested the deal would not impact employees at the Mousline plant and neither would it have any social consequences. 

“In addition, the project is not intended to challenge the sourcing or the relationships with customers, partners and suppliers,” the company said. 

Meanwhile, French authorities have confirmed a link between dozens of E. coli infections in children and frozen pizzas sold by Nestlé. 

Officials did not say exactly how many people were sick but revealed that epidemiological, microbiological and traceability work had found a connection with Buitoni brand Fraîch’Up pizza and Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) infections. 

In total, 75 infections are being looked at including 41 cases of HUS that appear to be linked.  

In a previous update, health officials said 27 cases of HUS or serious infection had been identified with 31 others being investigated. 

Pizzas sold since June 2021 were withdrawn and recalled in mid-March after Nestlé was told about the presence of E. coli O26 in dough used to make them. 

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