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Fire breaks out at Strauss-Elite factory shuttered over salmonella outbreak

Blaze isolated to a training room, extinguished by firefighters; no injuries

View of the Strauss Elite candy factory in Nof Hagalil, northern Israel, April 28, 2022. (David Cohen/FLASH90)
View of the Strauss Elite candy factory in Nof Hagalil, northern Israel, April 28, 2022. (David Cohen/FLASH90)

A fire broke out Monday evening at the Strauss Group’s Elite factory in Nof Hagalil, the site of a salmonella outbreak that has triggered a massive product recall.

Firefighters extinguished the fire and no injuries were reported in the incident. Strauss informed the Kan public broadcaster that the flames were confined to a training room and did not affect production areas.

The factory has been closed since Thursday, when Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash announced that it would be shut down for the next three months as the company investigates the salmonella contamination.

The food giant has been grappling with the outbreak, which has forced a recall of all confectionary items produced at the Nof Hagalil facility. It is believed to be the biggest recall in Israel’s history.

A Health Ministry report released on Sunday slammed the Strauss Group for a series of oversights and failures that it believes led to the spread of salmonella in its products. According to the ministry, out of 300 samples taken so far from the factory in question, about 30 have come back positive for traces of salmonella.

In its Sunday report, the Health Ministry cited a range of issues that it blamed on Strauss, including construction work at the factory that was undertaken without concern for its effects on production, the presence of pigeons in the factory that could potentially have played a role, the unfilled role of director of food safety at the factory, and improper thawing conditions for dairy fats used in chocolate production.

Strauss Group chairperson Ofra Strauss during a press conference, at Strauss’s main offices in Petah Tikva, April 28, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

In her first comments on the incident, Strauss chairperson Ofra Strauss apologized on Thursday for “the distress” the company had caused.

“[I’m] here to say on behalf of the company as clearly as possible: I apologize that we disappointed you. I’m sorry for all the distress you’re going through because of us,” she said during a press conference along with other company officials.

Strauss has come under public criticism for waiting a week to notify the public following initial lab results for salmonella, but the Health Ministry has defended the company in that regard, saying it followed all relevant guidelines as it conducted tests.

Customers with items suspected of containing the bacteria can contact Strauss on its website or via customer service at *6860. The company has promised to refund consumers double the purchase price of affected products, but admitted that it is currently experiencing heavy delays in customer service.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this story.

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