Box cutter blade in can of beef bourguignon


Christian Vest and his wife Éliane, of Ponts-de-Cé, France, sat down for a New Year’s Eve lunch of canned William-Saurin brand beef bourguignon.

“After a few minutes, I felt like I had a bone in my mouth,” the 70-year-old Christian recounted. “And then, a drop of blood like I had cut myself. I spit it out: it was a box cutter blade that was 6 by 1.5 centimeters.”

With his upper lip cut, Christian called the emergency line who advised him to go to the nearest clinic. “The doctor thought it best to get me immediately vaccinated in case the blade was infected. It was a real mess: in Angers there was only one pharmacy that had the vaccination I needed.”

Next the couple notified Consumer Services for William-Saurin. “They wanted us to return the blade, but that was out of the question. The evidence could disappear…”

The couple’s lawyer, Emmanuel Ludot, a specialist in food cases, said, “In legal matters for consumer rights, the burden of proof is opposite. It is up to the company to prove that the blade could not have been in the canned food.”

In April 2011, Mr. Ludot won a case against the manufacturer Jean-Caby for 24,000 euros for a stone found in a sausage. “In this type of case, testimony from witnesses is of capital importance. In this case, his wife saw everything. It is up to the company to decide if they want to go to trial…”

The cans from the affected batch have been taken off the shelves in the Intermarché store in Ponts-de-Cé where the product was purchased.

Gilles Montrichard, director of communications for William-Saurin, said the production process in the Lagny-sur-Marne plant has no flaws. “The products go through a scanner at different steps in the chain. This is the first time in hundreds of millions of cans produced that someone has found a box cutter blade.”

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About Douglas Powell

A former professor of food safety and the publisher of, Powell is passionate about food, has five daughters, and is an OK goaltender in pickup hockey. Download Doug’s CV here. Dr. Douglas Powell editor, retired professor, food safety 3/289 Annerley Rd Annerley, Queensland 4103 61478222221 I am based in Brisbane, Australia, 15 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time