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. 

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.

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