August 22, 2016

Israel Deals with Salmonella Crisis and Some Spillover Overseas

London - Kosher Kingdom in Golders Green, one of the largest independent kosher supermarkets in London recently cautioned customers to return certain Israeli produced hummus and tehina products to the store, amid concerns that they may contain salmonella. The store localized the concern to Shamir Salads with certain expiration dates. Importers in the US do not believe that the growing salmonella crisis in Israel has spread here pointing out that none of the recalled SKU  numbers appear to have reached US shores. But in Israel, the spread of the salmonella to such products as corn flakes, hummus and tehini, poultry and chocolate has raised unprecedented concern. The panic in Israel extended to Materna Extra Care baby formula which proved to be unfounded but less reassuring to customers. The company halted production leading to shortages of the baby formula product.

Salmonella concerns are not new to Israel or the kosher food industry worldwide. 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. On August 11th, 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. Prince recalled 120 tons of tehina to its plant in Ilabun, in northern Israel, and buried the lot. Israel’s Health Ministry is extremely aggressive when it comes to periodic testing of food products and is said to have further stepped up its program in recent weeks.