The whistleblower who exposed the Farine expired flour scandal will soon be issued an award by Shanghai authorities. But he still can't find a job.
Local media reported Wednesday that the unnamed ex-employee will be compensated with a reward worth five percent of what was involved in the case, though that exact amount has not yet been made public.
Meanwhile, the whistleblower has left Shanghai and hasn't been able to find employment since. Via Shine:
"He has not found a job since and he has left Shanghai, according to the Xinmin Evening News yesterday.
"'I hoped to find a job as a baker in Shanghai, but it is impossible to continue working and I was blocked and insulted by former colleagues,' the whistle-blower said.
"After spending four months trying and failing to find a job in Shanghai, he returned to his hometown in Liaoning Province.
"He added that he doesn’t regret alerting the authorities, 'but the tip-off has affected my life,' he was reported to have said."
The scandal first unfolded in March after the former employee published his bombshell allegations on Weibo. In the post, he claimed to be an ex-employee of Farine, and mentioned founder Franck Pécol by name.
An accompanying video appeared to show product labels with an expiry date of December 2016. The video also showed what appeared to be mold-infested flour baskets near the front of the store, though it is unclear whether these were for use in the bakery. Further allegations included baked products being stored on mold-covered cloths, staff seiving out mold from raw flour and claims of live rats in the store.
The employee, said to be in his early 30s, allegedly began working for Farine in October 2016 and recorded his findings over several weeks. He turned the footage into authorities on March 20, the same day the city introduced some of its most stringent food regulations.
Shortly after the scandal unfolded, eight people were detained in police custody following an investigation into the company's warehouses and stores.
Four employees were later arrested by Minhang district prosecutors. They were identified as production director and French citizen Laurent Daniel Fortin, and three Chinese nationals: Xin Xiangrong, Hu Jun and Lu Jiajian.
They were accused of using expired flour at the company's Minhang factory, which was used in breads supplied to the bakery's outlets at Wukang Lu, IFC Mall, Hubin Dao and Huashan Lu between December 2016 and March 2017.
In August, Fortin's family started a petition calling for his release from jail. The Change.org petition urged French President Emmanuel Macron and Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian to immediately release the 48-year-old from prison and raise public awareness of the scandal in France.
If convicted, Fortin faces up to 15 years in prison.
Fortin's brother David wrote in the petition that Laurent had previously complained about hygiene problems to management since his arrival in December 2016, and claimed that friends had confirmed his desire to leave the company. But management were said to have ignored the complaints, allegedly telling Fortin: "we're [just] a startup."
David Fortin also told the AFP that his brother was enduring tough conditions in prison, and wasn't even provided with a bed or chair during his first days in detention. According to local website oushinet.com, Laurent Fortin had not been allowed to speak to his family, though he has been permitted to write and receive letters.
The Change.org petition has since picked up over 66,00 signatures.
With Le Drian visiting Shanghai this weekend, David Fortin recently issued an update on Change.org, writing: "We hope that Laurent's case will be discussed."
Meanwhile, Farine released a statement earlier this year admitting the flour they used was out of date.
All Farine branches were closed following the investigation, and their listings removed from local listing site Dianping.
The rest of the Franck empire — including Pécol's namesake restaurant Franck Bistrot, Grains (which also houses WIYF), Rachel's and Far-West — soon followed. (Franck Bistrot later reopened, with the "Franck" name completely removed from the restaurant). Meanwhile, Pécol is said to be in France.
In March, Shanghai's Food and Drug Administration increased the reward for 'whistle blowers' tipping authorities off to food safety incidents to a maximum of RMB300,000.
According to Shine, the city's Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) yesterday announced that a total of RMB273,600 had been rewarded to individuals tipping authorities off to such incidents so far this year. The SFDA has already handled 784 cases in 2017.
Additionally, around 13,000 unlicensed street food vendors were shut down between January and October of this year as part of the city's food safety crackdown.
[Top image via Shanghai Daily]