For the second time in two weeks, the country’s major Hebrew-language papers lead with reports on salmonella-tainted foods reaching Israeli supermarkets, driving pundits and analysts to ponder the effectiveness of current health regulations, and muse about the possibility of reexamining the rules in order to ensure the public is not exposed to contaminated products.
“The salmonella oversight,” reads Yedioth Aharonoth‘s headline, alongside a photo of a worker at the Prince Tahina factory, where some 200 tons of tahina were slated for destruction after Health Ministry inspectors said the product had been tainted by the bacteria. The paper plays up the drama of the story, announcing that the company and its associates “hid” and “neglected” facts connected to the discovery of the contamination. The discovery led one of Prince Tahina’s biggest customers and one of Israel’s largest hummus manufacturers — the Salatey Shamir (Shamir Salads) brand, which produces several lines of generic and branded hummus, tahina and other dips and spreads — to issue a recall of over 10 days’ worth of the product.
Nevertheless, Prince Tahina’s recall came too late, Shamir Salads CEO Ami Guy claimed Thursday in an interview with Yedioth’s sister website, Ynet news. “The tahina supplier notified us too late. We’ve already been producing this [tainted tahina] for 10 days. We can assume that people have eaten from these products,” Guy said.
Shoshana Chen, a Yedioth contributor who has recently been vocal in her calls for a shake-up of Israeli health standards, notes that in the Jewish state, unlike in other westernized countries, there is no clear guidelines as to when a company must order a recall of contaminated foods. “Standards now,” Chen calls. “The right hand knows not what the left hand is doing… In order to have some order, it is necessary to establish a body with clear regulation [rules].”
Israel Hayom offers a guide for concerned Israelis regarding the recall, stressing that there is much less of a reason for panic than assumed. “Even if you have been infected, there is no reason to rush to a doctor, unless symptoms persist for more than a couple of days.” The daily advises its readers to stay hydrated in any case, as drinking a lot of water can help relieve symptoms and hasten recovery for those who have eaten the salmonella-tainted foods.
The Prince Tahina affair comes only several days after the Health Ministry said that it has suspended a manufacturing license given to multinational corporation Unilever, after cornflakes contaminated with salmonella managed to reach Israeli consumers. 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 last week 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 ministry said in a statement that its investigation was ongoing and the source of the bacterial outbreak has not been located.
Haaretz leads with a bombshell report claiming that dozens of babies from Ashkenazi families disappeared from Israeli-run hospitals in the 1950s. Haaretz collects testimonies from Eastern European families who arrived in Israel, and the descriptions sound eerily similar to those made by parents in connection with the so-called Yemenite Children Affair, in which hundreds of Yemenite children were suspected to have been kidnapped from hospitals in Israel in the 1950s under mysterious circumstances.
Families from Yemenite and North African Jewish communities have for years maintained that the government in the 1950s systematically kidnapped hundreds of their children from Israeli hospitals and put them up for adoption. Over the past several decades, the government has appointed three investigative committees to probe the affair, with all concluding the majority of children died in the hospital and were simply buried without their families being informed or involved. Recently, several groups have urged the government to declassify the documents concerning the Yemenite affair, arguing that if the several hundred children did indeed die, then the government should have nothing to hide.
Of course, the Hebrew-language media could not ignore any news related to Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli, who on Thursday gave birth to a healthy baby girl. “Please meet Liv Ezra,” reads Yedioth’s headline, referring to the baby. Refaeli, who is married to Israeli businessman Adi Ezra, is considered Israel’s leading female model and was featured on the cover of the 2009 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. A former girlfriend of Hollywood film star Leonardo DiCaprio, she was voted No. 1 on Maxim magazine’s Hot 100 list of 2012.
“So why [name the baby] Liv?” Yedioth rhetorically asks, answering that the name has a double meaning: On the one hand, Liv sounds like “Live,” and on the other, it derives from the Hebrew word “Livluv,” which means to bloom. Yedioth notes that the new parents thanked Ichilov hospital in Tel Aviv, its staff and doctors for helping to deliver their baby daughter.