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Biggest food recall in Israeli history

Strauss confirms salmonella traces found in foods as products pulled off shelves

Manufacturer and ministry deflect questions over week-long delay in recalling products; CEO offers to double refunds as company scrambles to contain fallout

Illustrative: Elite brand chocolate bars. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Illustrative: Elite brand chocolate bars. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

One of Israel’s largest food manufacturers said it would compensate consumers with double what they spent on products suspected of containing salmonella, as the company and government officials scrambled to answer questions raised by the massive recall of Strauss products, and stores pulled chocolate, ice cream, cookies and other products off shelves.

Strauss Group said Monday that numerous popular chocolate products produced by its subsidiary company Elite were being recalled due to concerns of salmonella contamination.

The Health Ministry said Tuesday evening that it was informed by Strauss that lab tests on some of its consumer-ready products had indeed tested positive for salmonella. At least three people have been hospitalized with suspected salmonella poisoning from Strauss goods.

Stores across Israel have cleared the shelves of dozens of products on a Health Ministry list, which includes goods that make up the lion’s share of many snack categories. The recall is believed to be the largest in the country’s history.

Some customers are avoiding purchasing all Strauss products — even those without chocolate — over fears of contamination, Channel 12 news reported.

“I didn’t even put regular cookies in my shopping cart because I’m afraid,” one shopper told the network.

“In the past day, we have been in dialogue with the consumers and are trying to address all your concerns” Strauss Group in Israel CEO Eyal Dror said Tuesday that the company was working to address consumer concerns.

“Along with all the activities we are doing to deal with the event, each or every customer who contacts [us], will receive double compensation for the chocolate purchased,” Dror said in a video statement aired on Israeli television.

He said the company was aware of long waiting times on the company’s *6860 hotline, but promised to get back to every customer.

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

Dror did not address concerns relating to the company’s decision to wait nearly a week after discovering there may have been a salmonella outbreak to announce the recall.

At least two children and one adult have sought medical attention with suspected cases of salmonella poisoning following the recall. A man who was treated at an urgent care facility in Bnei Brak with relevant symptoms said that he had consumed some of the infected products recently.

Officials have yet to say what may have caused the outbreak. Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said Tuesday that the incident would be fully investigated and the factory will not be allowed to resume operation before it is fully cleared. 

The Health Ministry said Strauss first identified traces of salmonella in its facilities a week ago, but held off on the recall until full test results came back — actions that adhere to ministry guidelines.

Ministry officials have defended the delay, noting that the initial salmonella detection was in the factory area, rather than the products themselves.

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

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.”

The ministry warned the elderly and immunocompromised to watch out for signs of salmonella poisoning, and for anyone with symptoms to consult a doctor. It noted that in the vast majority of cases, those who suffer from symptoms recover fully in two or three days.

View of Strauss Group offices in Karmiel, northern Israel, on November 10, 2021. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

The products affected include some of Israel’s most popular snacks: Pesek Zman bars (those marked best before December 1, 2022 to April 1, 2023), Reva L’Sheva bars (best before between May 1, 2022 to December 15, 2023), Kif Kef, Taami, Egozi and Energy bars (best before July 1, 2022 to January 1, 2023), Parra Chocolate bars (best before October 1, 2022 to April 24, 2023) — all produced by Elite. The recall was later expanded to include the Milky chocolate pudding topped with chocolate lentils as well as a wide range of ice cream products, added out of an abundance of caution due to their inclusion of some Elite chocolate products.

Customers with items suspected of containing the bacteria can contact Strauss on its website or via customer service at *6860.

Amy Spiro and Tobias Siegal contributed to this report.

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