Telma Far From Alone in Food Contamination, Report Shows

YERUSHALAYIM -
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)

Despite the notoriety of the current “Cornflakes Scandal,” the incidence of salmonella poisoning in Telma cereals is far from a unique occurence among Israeli food manufacturers. A study by business daily Calcalist shows there were 110 incidents of contamination of one type or another among Israeli food manufacturers over the past three years. Nearly all the contamination incidents were contained, with the products kept off supermarket shelves.

With that, at least half the incidents went unreported, with the companies failing to inform the public of the contamination. Currently, there is no law requiring companies to report such incidents, although in the wake of the cornflakes scandal, 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 report problems to the public and self-handedly destroy their own reputations of their own free will. The solution is to legislate a requirement to report any 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.

Unilever Israel, producers of the Telma cornflakes that were found to contain salmonella, said that in the past three years there had been one other salmonella-infection incident, as well as 32 other incidents of different types of contamination that were not dangerous to the public. In each case, the company said, products were kept off supermarket shelves.

Dairy firm Tnuva said that it had reported ten cases of contamination in the past three years, while Osem said that there had been seven such incidents.