You may remember how back in March of this year, scandal rocked Shanghai’s food and beverage world after health inspectors discovered that the popular Farine bakery chain was using expired flour, resulting in its shops being closed down and some staff members being arrested.
One of those arrested was 48-year-old Laurent Fortin who moved to China from France at the end of 2016 to work as Farine’s production manager at its factory in Minhang District, only to be detained by police a few months later, along with six Chinese employees, after the food safety scandal was unearthed.
Now more than five months later, Fortin remains behind bars and his family has launched an online campaign hoping to secure his freedom.
“We demand the immediate liberation of Laurent as well as the involvement of the French government,” reads a petition began by Fortin’s family on the change.org site which currently has more than 2,000 supporters. Details about his case are not clear, but if convicted, Fortin could be sentenced to between one and 15 years in prison, AFP reports.
The whole thing began in late March when a former Farine employee went public with his allegations against the bakery by posting them onto Weibo, claiming that while he had worked at Farine’s flagship Wukang Lu shop, the bakery had a policy of using expired and even moldy flour in making its premium bread products. In the scandalous post, he even mentioned Farine founder Franck Pécol by name. The “whistleblower” also alleged that the bakery’s kitchen was plagued with hygiene problems, including mold and rats that frolicked across the floor each night. Along with his post, the ex-employee included a series of videos that he had secretly filmed inside the kitchen while he worked at the shop.
In an official statement later that month, Farine apologized to its customers and admitted to mistakenly using expired flour, explaining that “The use of this small part was based on best used before date, without realizing that China applies a strict earlier expiry date.”
While Fortin and other employees were picked up by Shanghai police, Pécol happened to be back in France at the time of the raids. A (formerly) successful entrepreneur in the city, Pécol also held stakes in multiple other establishments in Shanghai including his namesake Franck bistro; however, he has not been spotted back in the city since the scandal erupted.
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