Less Salt in Bamba, Bissli, Osem CEO Promises Rabbi Litzman

The peanut snack "Bamba" produced at the salty snack production site of "Strauss" in the southern Israeli town of Sderot. Strauss, the shared trademark of two companies – Strauss and Elite, which merged in 2004, is a food products manufacturer in Israel. May 08, 2014. Photo by Moshe Shai/FLASH90
Peanut snack production (File photo/Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Osem, maker of iconic snacks Bissli and Bamba, has promised that it will reduce the amount of salt in its snacks by 15 percent over the next two years. Itzik Sayegh, chairman of the Osem Group, made the commitment before Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman Tuesday, when the latter toured the company’s facilities in Sderot.

That 15 percent will come in addition to the dramatic reduction in the use of salt in all Osem snacks over the past several years, Sayegh said. Sayegh presented the minister with new equipment that the company is using to preserve the traditional taste of the snacks while reducing salt levels. The technology to accomplish this is being developed in cooperation with the Chief Scientist of the Economy Ministry, Avi Hasson.

Rabbi Litzman said that he was “impressed with Osem’s commitment to the ambitious goals it is setting for itself.” Israel, he said, needed to develop not only advanced technology, but also advanced goals for health. “Osem is definitely taking steps in the right direction.”

In recent months, Rabbi Litzman has been campaigning intensively to institute healthier eating habits among Israelis, especially children. In cooperation with the Health Ministry, the Education Ministry has announced that subsidized lunches served in school will cut high-calorie, high-fat, high-sugar content and nitrite-laced processed foods such as: cakes, cookies, croissants, wafers, french fries, hot dogs, kebabs, and even beloved schnitzels. In their place will come lighter, healthier fare, including hard boiled eggs, yellow cheese containing up to 9 percent fat content, cottage cheese, 5 percent spreadable white cheese, tehina, tuna and low-fat hummus.

According to statistics supplied by the Central Bureau of Statistics and analyzed by the Ministry, 44 percent of Israelis – nearly one out of two – are overweight or obese, and the same is true of 21 percent of first graders. By seventh grade, 30 percent of kids are overweight. Rabbi Litzman – along with many health professionals – believes that junk food is largely responsible for this situation, and he is considering numerous legislative initiatives to curb consumption of junk food. Among those initiatives are labeling – cigarette pack-style – the packages of snack food to emphasize their calorie and fat level, along with a “health score,” to be determined by professionals, which will rank food products on a scale between 1 and 10 (or 1 and 100) on its desirability. The healthier a food – taking into account its nutrient level, calories, and fat, sugar and salt content- the higher a score it will get.