What was meant to be a joyous holiday celebration for 2,600 Airbus Atlantic workers has resulted in a mass outbreak of gastroenteritis, leaving around 700 employees affected. The incident occurred following a dinner organised by the company’s restaurant in Montoir-de-Bretagne, western France.

The massive outbreak has prompted the country’s health authorities to investigate the source of the illness.

The feast featured a menu with items like foie gras, scallops, lobster, and tournedos. Desserts, including ice-cream logs and hazelnut-chocolate mousse, were offered at a cost of €15 (£13) per person.

The affected workers began exhibiting symptoms of vomiting and/or diarrhoea following the dinner on 14 December. The onset of the illness occurred mostly within 24 to 48 hours after the meal.

One worker, Nolwenn, reported severe symptoms and described the experience as worse than giving birth. Jean-Claude Iribarren, the secretary of the Airbus Atlantic works committee, revealed that the food was prepared by the company’s canteen.

The dinner, an annual tradition for 2,600 people, involved local suppliers. Samples of every product served at the restaurant have been retained. The health authorities will analyse them in order to determine the cause of the outbreak.

An Airbus spokesperson reassured the public that no one has been seriously ill. The subsidiary, Airbus Atlantic, employs 15,000 people across five countries. The investigation, overseen by the health authorities (ARS), is expected to take several more days.

Health officials explore various possibilities which include bacterial contamination in the food and the potential spread of a highly contagious gastroenteritis virus. A questionnaire has also been distributed to all those present at the dinner to aid the inquiry.