MK: Companies Must Be Required to Report Tainted Food Issues

An employee arranges cereal boxes for sale at a supermarket in Yerushalayim. (Reuters/Ronen Zvulun)
An employee arranges cereal boxes for sale at a supermarket in Yerushalayim. (Reuters/Ronen Zvulun)

In the wake of the “cornflakes scandal” that erupted last week after the discovery of salmonella on the factory line of Telma cereals, MK Itzik Shmueli (Zionist Camp) said that he intended to pass legislation that would penalize companies that fail to inform the public in cases of health issues, even before the product reaches supermarket shelves.

“I have been worrying and warning about this possibility for at least a year,” said Shmueli. “It is ridiculous to believe that the food companies will of their own free will report problems to the public and self-handedly destroy their own reputations. The solution is to legislate a requirement to report on all problems. We cannot wait for another Remedia tragedy,” he said, referring to the deaths several years ago of infants who were given tainted baby formula.

Although the company has not released figures, by some estimates, Telma cereal sales have fallen by some 78 percent for the company, despite repeated appeals by Unilever Israel, makers of the cereal, that its products are perfectly safe, Channel Two reported. As of last Wednesday, before the crisis became public, cornflakes sales had risen some 1.5 percent over the previous four weeks. By Thursday afternoon, after news of the salmonella discovery was reported, sales tanked by 24 percent. By Sunday, sales had fallen even further – for a total of 78 percent over the numbers sold just a week earlier.

In recent days, consumers noticed a lack of cornflakes on Israeli supermarket shelves – specifically the cornflakes made by Telma at its factory in Arad. After repeated grilling by the media, Telma’s parent company, Unilever Israel, finally admitted that the company had recalled its latest shipment of cornflakes because salmonella was found in several boxes.

With that, the company said that it was confident that the problem was under control. “Because of requests by the media and an atmosphere of confusion, we wish to stress that a secondary health issue was discovered by the company during a quality control check initiated by the factory, with several products not up to our very high standards. We have thus decided on our own volition to not to market these products.”

However, it emerged that the company had been aware of the problem for days – some said weeks – before the revelations last week. After intense pressure by the public and in the media, the company announced on Friday that consumers could bring any Telma cereal package to a store for a refund, opened or not.