Rabbi Litzman: Zero Tolerance for Food Safety Mishaps

Israel Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman. (Yaakov Lederman/Flash90)
Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman. (Yaakov Lederman/Flash90)

Bad batches of products Israelis rely on to feed their families continue to surface in Israel. This week it was the turn of the Miki salad company to recall several of its products, including sliced frozen smoked salmon. The products bear a production date of July 7, 2016 and an expiration date of March 3, 2017. Based on sample tests of the products, said the company, there was a strong possibility that the batch was infected by Listeria bacteria.

Also being recalled were packages of halvah sold under the Barakeh brand name. Rashdi Food Industries, makers of Barakeh halvah products, said that there was a suspicion that packages with expiration dates of select dates between March and June 2017 were infected with salmonella, and the packages should be returned to the company for refund or replacement.

On Tuesday, food giant Elite issued a recall for chocolate roulade cakes with an expiration date of December 3, 2016. The company said that inspections had yielded higher than normal yeast counts that could affect the taste of the products. The company stressed that there was no danger in consuming the cakes.

On Tuesday, Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman responded to critics who said that he had removed the production license from salmonella-offender Nesich, whose contaminated tehina went into thousands of tubs of prepared salads, while allowing Telma to continue producing cereal even though it too had produced salmonella-tainted cornflakes.

Ronen Tzur, a spokesperson for Nesich, compared the tainting of the tehina with that of the other major salmonella story in recent weeks – the tainting of dozens of tons of cornflakes and other cereals manufactured by Unilever Israel under its Telma brand. Cereal production at the Arad plant where the contamination was found was ongoing, and last week the Health Ministry declared that the plant was safe, and that all contamination had been eliminated.

Tzur said that the Health Ministry was being “tough” on Nesich, while letting Unilever Israel off the hook. “It is, of course, much easier to take a tough stance against a small factory in the Galilee than against other factories. If they would close down other factories like they closed Nesich I am sure that the Ministry would come up with different findings.”

In response, Rabbi Litzman said at a hearing on the salmonella scandal Tuesday that the difference was simple. “Unilever, makers of the Telma cereals, was not required to inform the public under current laws, because it had intended to destroy the salmonella-tainted cereals before they reached the market,” he said.

“That some boxes made it to store shelves was due to an unfortunate snafu. At Nesich, they knew about the problem, and were required to inform their customers, but failed to do so. The problem with their tehina was discovered by the customers themselves.

“We are entering a new period, one in which there will be zero tolerance of improperly prepared products,” said Rabbi Litzman. “These accusations of ‘racism’ because Nesich is owned by Arabs are nonsense.”

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