The Health Ministry said Sunday that it has suspended a manufacturing license given to multinational corporation Unilever, after cornflakes tainted with salmonella managed to reach Israeli consumers.
The ministry said in a statement that it had carried out an inspection of the Arad plant, with the full cooperation of the company, and found Unilever to have been negligent, but not malicious, in running the factory in southern Israel.
“This was a series of negligent mistakes, and not an incident with malicious intent by the firm’s management and quality control procedures,” the statement read.
The company had initially refused to alert the public, saying that the tainted cereal had not left the plant. However, according to Channel 10 television, a Unilever inspection early Friday morning showed that some 240 boxes of contaminated cereal were neither on supermarket shelves nor in storerooms, and are thought to have been sold by the Shufersal chain nationwide. The boxes are reportedly from the same shipment as the tainted package that sparked the recall.
The ministry said in a statement that its investigation was ongoing and the source of the bacterial outbreak has not been located.
“Given the incident, and together with the hearing, the Good Manufacturing Practice license of the company has been suspended until they carry out a number of corrections and report on them,” the statement read. There are only 80 factories in Israel that carry this license. The ministry has announced that it will continue daily inspections of the facility until the issue is resolved.
The Knesset State Control Committee will convene an urgent meeting on the issue on Tuesday, calling lawmakers back from recess to seek an inquiry into the apparent failure of the Health Ministry to prevent the distribution of tainted cereal.
Knesset State Control Committee Chair MK Karin Elharar (Yesh Atid) echoed the sentiment: “Israel can’t rely on the self-reporting of companies. The Health Ministry has to scrutinize production lines. We want to ask: Where the Health Ministry’s role was in this?”