December 20, 2016

Despite Relatively Good Safety Record, Kosher Food Industry Takes Recalls Seriously

New York - Despite a staggering number of product recalls in 2016, the kosher food industry had relatively few recalls due to salmonella concerns. Israel was hit with a spate of recalls that indirectly affected markets in Europe, but not in the US. The recalls included hummus and tehina products from a popular brand, corn flakes, and even poultry and chocolates. In the US, there was a voluntary recall by Sabra Hummus due to possible listeria contamination that was discovered in a plant and not in finished products. Kosher food industry sources told Kosher Today that “overall the industry has instituted many safety and hygienic safeguards to ward off the possibility of contamination.” This explains why in 2016, the kosher food industry had an impeccable safety record. One manufacturer (who spoke on the condition of anonymity) said: “They jump down our throats when there is an incident but never give us credit for our good safety record.” He was referring to some media he claimed had in the past questioned the safety practices of the industry. He added: “If there is a discovery of contamination, we will not play with the health of our customers.” Israeli sources told Kosher Today that government health inspectors had become more vigilant and increased inspections due to the problems encountered in 2016. In Israel alone, there are believed to be about 100 recalls a year with few if any extending to exported foods. In late July, Unilever destroyed hundreds of tons of its Osem brand breakfast cereals after the discovery of salmonella in a distribution center not related to the company. In August, the Health Ministry halted the sale of Prince tehina, which in addition to being sold in stores is used as an ingredient in the products of numerous food makers, and suspended the company’s license indefinitely. That was 10 days after the Strauss Group found salmonella in tests of a sample of Prince tehina, which it uses in its own salads. Another Prince customer, the salad maker Tzabar, found that its salads were bad too.