When A Town In France Was Poisoned By Bread

In addition to the investigations by medical experts, law enforcement got involved as well, but it seems as though each different inquiry led to a different theory. One investigation determined that the flour became contaminated because it was transported “unhygienically in polluted train cars,” writes Haaretz. Another believed that the contamination came from factories whose fuel leaks contaminated water supplies.

Another theory blamed the materials used to bleach bread, but the French government decided not to investigate this theory further, a decision that historian Steven L. Kaplan calls “outrageous.”

In the end, Maurice Maillet and Guy Bruère ended up being arrested and formally charged on September 1, 1951, for supplying dangerous food products, falsifying records, and involuntary homicide. Fuller writes in “The Day of St. Anthony’s Fire.”

While rumors spread that the Union Meunière was trying to do everything it could to blame the bakers and the millers, Maillet’s flour supply was tested. However, it showed the ergot levels to be negligible. And since “no causal chain could be established” to connect Maillet to the Pont-Saint-Esprit tragedy, it appears as though the charges against both men ended up being dropped. The New York Times writes that in 1978, “the [whole] affair was finally dropped.”

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