Attorneys representing consumer groups have requested the courts to approve a huge class-action lawsuit against some of Israel’s largest supermarket chains – for selling tainted chicken. According to the lawsuit, as many as half, or even more, of the fresh chickens sold in large supermarket chains like Shufersal and Yeinot Bitan were contaminated, many of them with salmonella. The chains are responsible for selling contaminated chickens without providing warnings that they may be infected – and as such should be held responsible for cases in which people who ate their chickens got sick.
According to scientists, salmonella is not uncommon in fresh chicken, and the germ can be killed and the chicken rendered safe to eat if it is cooked to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Nevertheless, there is a danger that some people will not cook the chicken properly, according to Shai Shulman, on whose behalf the lawsuit is being filed. “Salmonella can harm and hurt my children, whose internal defenses may not be able to beat back the germs,” he told Hadashot News. “When I realized this I felt a great deal of pressure.” In addition, “the infected chicken infects other foods, and the entire kitchen environment, when you bring it home,” he said.
The lawsuit cites statistics of recent veterinary studies that established the high levels of salmonella at some supermarket chains. At the Shufersal supermarkets checked, 55 percent of the chickens carried the germ, as did 55 percent of the Yeinot Bitan chickens. At Rami Levy, that figure was “only” 27 percent.
In a statement on the lawsuit, the Health Ministry said that the issue of salmonella in raw processed chicken was well-known, and that the Health Ministry regularly published alerts on how to prepare chicken safely for eating. There are no warning labels on chickens indicating that they could be contaminated, the ministry said.
Commenting on the lawsuit, Yeinot Bitan told Hadashot News that it trusted its suppliers and that “they follow and fulfill all health criteria required of them. The suppliers provide us with their licenses and health inspection documents, and we only accept deliveries if these are in order. We observe all required rules and regulations in storage, preparation, and sale of chickens. We believe that this lawsuit will be dismissed.” A spokesperson for Supersol said that the company could not comment on an ongoing legal matter. “We follow the law and as the Health Ministry has pointed out, there is no obligation to indicate on labels the possibility that a chicken may be infected with salmonella.”