Strauss Group, one of Israel’s largest food product manufacturers, said Tuesday that production had resumed at a chocolate factory that was shut down for months due to salmonella contamination.
Many Elite chocolate products have returned to the shelves after being noticeably absent since a massive recall in April, the company said.
These include chocolate bars and wafers as well as chocolate spread, Strauss said.
Other previously recalled items, such as the popular Pesek Zman, Ta’ami and Twist chocolate bars, will return to the shelves within weeks, the company added.
Strauss said in its statement that the factory in the northern town of Nof Hagalil has resumed production “after significant investments were made to ensure the quality and safety of the products.”
“We’re happy and excited to be returning to the shelves,” said Strauss CEO Eyal Dror. “Over the past few months, we’ve redefined our work procedures and have taken action to ensure especially high levels of quality and safety, based on research we conducted in several leading chocolate factories in the world.”
Strauss first announced a recall of several popular chocolate products produced by its subsidiary company Elite in late April, citing concerns of salmonella contamination.
The recall was an immense one — characterized as the largest food recall to ever take place in Israel. At least six people were hospitalized with suspected salmonella poisoning from Strauss goods at the time.
The company soon expanded the initial recall and pulled all products produced at the Nof Hagalil facility, including gum and toffee candies. The factory was closed after the Health Ministry found “fundamental defects” in its operations.
A Health Ministry report released in May found a series of oversights and failures that it believed could have led to the spread of salmonella in the Elite factory.
The report 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; an infiltration of pigeons into the factory that could potentially have played a role; the unfilled role of a director of food safety at the factory; and improper thawing conditions for dairy fats used in chocolate production.
Following a subsequent audit conducted by the Health Ministry in August, Strauss received approval for a gradual return to operations.
Improvements made at the Nof Hagalil factory included upgrading a sampling system for finished products and raw materials and designating certain parts of the factory as “sensitive” zones, which require appropriate dress codes and safety procedures, Strauss has previously said.
There were also extensive sanitation improvements made including sealing roofs, replacing equipment, replacing floors, and filling cracks.
The Health Ministry said at the time it would continue its inspections until the plant was allowed to return to full operations.
Strauss operates in about 20 countries worldwide, offering a range of products including dips and spreads, coffee, dairy products and water purification and filtration solutions (in Israel, China and the UK) through different brands, subsidiaries and local partnerships. The company employs about 15,000 people across nearly 30 production sites globally.
Amy Spiro and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.