Strauss expands recall to include gum, candies after further salmonella traces found

Citing an abundance of caution, food manufacturer says it is also fully shutting factory; CEO: ‘We apologize to the public, customers and retailers for the serious malfunction’

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel

A man shops for groceries at a Rami Levy supermarket in Jerusalem on February 3, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
A man shops for groceries at a Rami Levy supermarket in Jerusalem on February 3, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Days after announcing an initial recall of products from an Elite factory in Nof Hagalil over fears of salmonella contamination, the Strauss Group opted Wednesday to pull all products produced at that facility from the shelves, significantly expanding what was already a massive recall.

Describing the move as being taken “out of an abundance of caution,” Strauss said it was instructing the public not to consume any products produced in the northern Israel factory with any expiration date, including gum and toffee candies. The recall was believed to be the largest in Israel’s history even before Wednesday’s announcement.

The affected gum brands include Must, Bazooka and Alma as well as any Elite chewy candies. The newly recalled products join a long line of Elite items already recalled, including chocolates like the Para bars, Pesek Zman, Kif Kef and Ta’ami, as well as Energy bars, wafers, cookies and brownies produced by Elite. A range of products containing Elite chocolate, including Milky puddings with chocolate lentils, chocolate-covered rice cakes and a wide range of Strauss ice creams were also recalled as a precaution.

Wednesday’s decision was made after initial lab results from the factory in question indicated the presence of salmonella in two out of 270 samples that were tested. Strauss said it notified the Health Ministry of the results and decided to shut down all operations in the facility until all concerns have been identified and addressed.

Strauss said it made the decision to expand the recall to gum and candy “despite the fact that we do not currently have any indication of a problem with these products.”

“We will not take any risk regarding public health,” said Strauss CEO Eyal Dror in a statement to media on Wednesday.  “The company’s management apologizes to the Israeli public, to customers and to retailers for the serious malfunction.”

Strauss Group in Israel CEO Eyal Dror delivers a statement, on April 26, 2022. (Screenshot: Channel 12 news)

Dror vowed that Strauss “will learn lessons from the incident, change and improve the testing system and return to production only when we know that the factory and production lines are in order and the products are safe — as expected from a responsible company like Strauss.”

Strauss first announced the massive recall on Monday, calling on consumers not to purchase and stores not to sell a range of chocolate and snack products due to fears of salmonella contamination. On Tuesday and Wednesday it expanded the recall to include additional products after ongoing lab tests found further suspected bacteria.

At least three people have been hospitalized recently with suspected salmonella poisoning, though none have been confirmed to have been affected by Strauss goods. The Health Ministry said Tuesday that while most people with symptoms from salmonella will recover in a few days without complications, those who are elderly or immunocompromised should take special care.

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 and stated that it followed all the relevant guidelines.

“We have no complaints toward Strauss for not reporting the indications on time,” Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash told Channel 12 news on Tuesday.

Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of public health services at the Health Ministry, said it was unfair to complain about the recall beginning only days after the initial detection.

“You can’t issue a recall for all products every time you find a positive test result on a work surface because it might be meaningless,” she said during a Tuesday press conference. “There’s a process that takes a number of days.”

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.

Tobias Siegal contributed to this report.

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