Delivered. In 1966, in Marseille, Pierre Bellon began his activities in an anchovy shed. For a year, driving his van, he crisscrossed the Canebière and delivered meals without much success. In 1964, he won the call for tenders from the Atomic Energy Commission of Pierrelatte (Drôme) to serve 2,000 meals a day. This guarantees him the signing of other contracts in the Marseille region, then the possibility of expanding elsewhere before hitting the jackpot in Guyana where the National Center for Space Studies is setting up a rocket launch base.
In Sodexo the gluttonous (Threshold), Jean Songe retraces the voracious and vertiginous rise of this small family business that has become in fifty years the eighteenth global employer in collective catering.
The multinational, deployed in more than 80 countries, manages more than 17,000 company restaurants, as well as 5,600 canteens in schools and universities, 4,000 in hospitals, 3,000 in retirement homes, not to mention 1,700 mining sites and tankers, 1,100 military bases and 130 prisons. In the near future, this low-key industrial empire expects to take care of all aspects of the lives of a billion people of all ages.
Through this success story, Jean Songe underlines the cynicism of French capitalism. From the 780 square meter kitchen where more than 7,500 daily meals are prepared and the working day begins at 4 am at the Clairefontaine National Football Center, the golden resort of the France team, where Sodexo offers a unique and modular; From the site of the largest open-cast graphite mine in the world in Mozambique, where Sodexo provides catering, to the staff and VIP guests of the Tour de France, fed by Sodexo, the reader discovers that the conquest is built through violent techniques management, and on the backs of overexploited workers.
“Impossible to cook”
Journalist and author of several black novels, Jean Songe also evokes the health scandals that have tarnished the image of the group. In September 2012, more than 10,000 children suffered from gastroenteritis after contracting a virus nestled in frozen strawberries imported from China. After denying its responsibility, Sodexo ended up apologizing to the children and their families and then paid 550,000 euros in compensation vouchers.
In 2018, Parisian parents, alerted by their children’s complaints, delved into the technical sheet of the dishes served in schools in the 15e arrondissement, where catering is run by a Sodexo subsidiary. They are frightened: the vegetable matches benefiting from an organic and vegetarian label are mainly composed of water and sugar supplemented with oil, starch, egg white powder, tomato paste, in all eighteen ingredients obtained from powders.
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