Strauss’s massive recall includes food products sold abroad

More than 100 Elite-branded items ranging from chocolate bars to chewing gum taken off shelves due to salmonella concerns; firm operates in 20 countries, including US, Canada

An illustrative photo showing chocolate bars made by Strauss Group. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)
An illustrative photo showing chocolate bars made by Strauss Group. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

The massive recall of food products announced last week by Strauss Group, one of Israel’s largest food manufacturers, also applies to products the company sells to retailers abroad.

In the US, the overall recall comprises 101 items including a range of chocolate and snack products, chewing gum, energy bars, and candies. In Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CIFA) listed 97 items that should not be consumed.

Last Monday, Strauss Group initially recalled numerous popular chocolate products made by its subsidiary company Elite due to concerns of salmonella contamination, later expanding the recall to include additional products after ongoing lab tests found further suspected bacteria.

“A few samples containing the salmonella bacteria were discovered in the factory’s production line and in the chocolate used as a raw material to create products,” Strauss Group said on April 25, whereupon the company’s shares fell by about 2.85 percent.

The food giant has since been grappling with the outbreak, which has forced a recall of all confectionary items produced at Elite factory in Nof Hagalil, now shut by the Health Ministry. It is believed to be the biggest recall in Israel’s history.

Last Thursday, on April 28, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) posted Strauss’ announcement of a voluntary recall that includes “all product codes currently on the US market.” These products were distributed and sold in retail chains, like Walmart, in places where there is demand for kosher products, primarily in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, California, and Florida, according to the announcement. Items are also sold online via e-commerce sites like Amazon.

View of the Strauss Elite candy factory in Nof Hagalil, northern Israel, April 28, 2022. (David Cohen/FLASH90)

Retailers have been instructed to take the affected products off the shelves, and Strauss has said that customers who have purchased items on the list may return them for a full refund.

The company has not provided details about the recall operations outside Israel.

Strauss operates in about 20 countries worldwide, offering a range of products like 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.

In 2021, Strauss Group’s overall revenue stood at NIS 8.7 billion ($2.6 billion) including NIS 639 million ($190 million) of net profits, according to its financial filings.

A Health Ministry report released on Sunday slammed the Strauss Group for a series of oversights and failures that it believes led to the spread of salmonella in its products. According to the ministry, out of 300 samples taken so far from the factory in question, about 30 have come back positive for traces of salmonella.

In its report, the Health Ministry 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, the presence of pigeons in the factory that could potentially have played a role, the unfilled role of director of food safety at the factory, and improper thawing conditions for dairy fats used in chocolate production.

Strauss chairperson Ofra Strauss has apologized for “the distress” the company had caused.

“[I’m] here to say on behalf of the company as clearly as possible: I apologize that we disappointed you. I’m sorry for all the distress you’re going through because of us,” she said during a press conference on Thursday along with other company officials.

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