Disclose, a French investigative journalism non-profit, teamed up with The Guardian’s Paris-based correspondent, Caroline Harrap, to produce a four-part investigation into alleged wrongdoing by French dairy giant Lactalis. The collaboration involved reporting in France, Spain, Britain and Italy.
“Disclose has spent a year investigating the Lactalis ‘system’, involving numerous interviews and the study of hundreds of administrative and legal documents,” the organisation says on a microsite dedicated to the project.
“This lengthy research reveals for the first time the extent of the group’s questionable practices, and also a certain sentiment of impunity that appears to be present within the multinational; failings in the field of food safety, massive pollution of rivers, the dissimulation of information, failings in control mechanisms, large-scale tax evasion and the hunting of whistleblowers.”
The team discovered that 38 Lactalis factories have been — or still are — in violation of the Environmental Code. In the interests of transparency, Disclose posted online all the documents it obtained and analysed. Disclose also revealed how the Lactalis group allegedly evaded taxation in England, Spain and Italy by using an offshore company in Luxembourg.
Selon l’enquête de @Disclose_ngo Lactalis déverse des rejets toxiques dans les cours d’eau français depuis 10 ans. Plus de la moitié des usines du groupe laitier ont été ou sont toujours en violation du code de l’environnement. #EnvoyeSpecial pic.twitter.com/egmsvEaCdx
— Disclose (@Disclose_ngo) October 22, 2020
Following the team’s revelations of pollution of French rivers by Lactalis factories, France Nature Environnement, a federation of environmental associations, filed a complaint against the company. Several local media outlets picked up and continued the investigation, drawing on a map of polluting sites published online by Disclose.
In December 2020, the French government introduced ecocide as an offence punishable by three to 10 years in prison and a fine of €375,000 to €4.5 million for individuals or companies who have contaminated water, air or soil, intentionally or not.
See below for the full list of stories published.
- Lactalis, a law unto itself ( Disclose, France, 19 October 2020 )
- A network of pollution ( Disclose, France, 19 October 2020 )
- Inside stories from the dairy plants ( Disclose, France, 20 October 2020 )
- The inside story of the salmonella scandal ( Disclose, France, 19 October 2020 )
- The inside story of a multi-million tax dodge ( Disclose, France, 19 October 2020 )
- French dairy giant accused of polluting country's famous rivers for years ( The Guardian, UK, 19 October 2020 )
- Lactalis, une firme sans foi ni loi ( Disclose, France, 19 October 2020 )
- Pollution en bande organisée ( Disclose, France, 19 October 2020 )
- Dans le secret des laiteries ( Disclose, France, 20 October 2020 )
- Lait contaminé: l'intox de Lactalis ( Disclose, France, 20 October 2020 )
- Les milliards cachés de Lactalis ( Disclose, France, 20 October 2020 )
- Inside Lactalis Podcast ( Disclose, France, October 2020 )
- Lactalis, une firme sans foi ni loi ( Mediapart, France, 19 October 2020 )
- Lactalis: polluer en bande organisée ( Mediapart, France, 19 October 2020 )
- «Mouillage» du lait, recyclage de fromages souillés: les recettes secrètes de Lactalis ( Mediapart, France, 20 October 2020 )
- Lait contaminé: comment Lactalis a bravé les règles sanitaires ( Mediapart, France, 22 October 2020 )
- Evasion fiscale: au Luxembourg, Lactalis boit du petit lait ( Mediapart, France, 23 October 2020 )
- L'ogre du lait: Épisode 1 : La pollution de la rivière de la Seiche (podcast) ( France Culture, France, 20 October 2020 )
- L'ogre du lait: Épisode 2 : Belle-Île-en-Mer parviendra-t-elle à quitter Lactalis? (podcast) ( France Culture, France, 21 October 2020 )
- L'ogre du lait: Épisode 3 : Roquefort: La main mise de Lactalis (podcast) ( France Culture, France, 22 October 2020 )
- Lactalis au-dessus des lois? ( France 2, France, October 2020 )
- Impact environnemental des usines Lactalis : l'enquête de Disclose ( Brut, France, 22 October 2020 )
- LACTALIS, UNE FIRME SANS FOI NI LOI ( Le Poulpe, France, 19 October 2020 )