Next Stage in Salmonella Crisis: Lawsuits

Owners of the Shamir Company Yakov Ginzburg and Ami Guy (L) hold a press conference about the salmonella found in part of their products in Tel Aviv on August 11, 2016. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90
Owners of Shamir Salads Yaakov Ginzburg and Ami Guy (L) hold a press conference in Tel Aviv on Thursday about the salmonella found in some of their products.  (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The latest salmonella scandal affecting raw tehina that erupted Thursday shows no sign of letting up. Afif Tanus, chairman of the Nesich firm, which was fingered as the source of the contaminated raw tehina that led to a massive recall of ready-made salads from Israeli supermarket shelves, said that his company was aware that it had a problem, but that it had not informed all customers.

As a result, Nesich is likely to be sued by one of those customers – Shamir Salads, which took a huge hit on Thursday as it recalled thousands of tubs of tainted salads.

Speaking to Israel Radio Friday morning, Tanus said that the company had informed salad firms Tsabar (Sabra) and Strauss, maker of the Achla line of salads – the two most popular brands in Israel – that there was a problem, and they returned the unused raw tehina they had been sent, and destroyed the salads that had been made with it. But the company had “forgotten” to inform Shamir, the company that ended up recalling Thursday thousands of tehina, hummus and eggplant salads based on the tainted ingredients.

Shamir recalled thousands of containers of hummus and tehina salads, as did numerous private label and supermarket brands that Shamir manufactures for, including salads marketed under the brand names Yesh, Asli, Hamutag (Victory), Picnik, Yohannanoff, and Salatei Habayit. All carried sell-by dates in September 2016. The Health Ministry said that it would destroy 200 tons of raw tehina manufactured by Nesich, after it was found to contain salmonella bacteria. But the tainting has apparently been going on for some time, and an undetermined amount of tainted tehina has already been distributed.

The IDF said that tehina and hummus supplied to it by the Shamir salad company was found to be tainted by salmonella two weeks ago, Yediot Aharonot reported Thursday afternoon. It said that as far as it knew, no soldiers had been reported getting sick from consuming the salads.

Supermarket, catering, and restaurant staff were busy Thursday afternoon checking the brand, source, and dates associated with their hummus and tehina salads. Both are by far the most popular salads and condiments among Israelis, and the tainting of the Nesich raw tehina could have long-ranging and very damaging consequences for the Israeli food industry, according to industry officials quoted by Israel Radio.

Speaking on Israel Radio Friday, Ami Guy, CEO of Shamir Salads, said that Tanus’s admission was grounds for a lawsuit, due to loss of business and damage to reputation. Guy said that the company had conducted numerous tests of the products already on supermarket shelves and found them to be safe, but said that it had ordered the recall in order to protect consumers.

Sabra, meanwhile, issued a statement saying that it had conducted a thorough examination of its products and had found them all to be safe. The raw tehina that had been shipped to it was examined before use and returned to Nesich before it could be used in producing salads.