By Michael Bachner/TPS
Jerusalem (TPS) – The Israeli Ministry of Health on Thursday ordered a halt to all sales of products containing tahini made by Prince Tahina, the largest manufacturer of tahini in the Middle East and one of the biggest in the world, amid a burgeoning scandal in Israel over salmonella found in various Israeli products.
The bacterium was discovered on Wednesday in Shamir salads, which contains tahini made by Prince Tahina.
“We received a report on August 7 saying that salmonella bacteria were discovered in tahini produced by the Prince Tahina factory,” said Israeli Public Health Services Director Prof. Itamar Grotto at a press conference. “We discovered that the company had shipped products to Shamir Salads without updating us.”
The IDF had already noticed an alarming rate of bacteria in Shamir salads at the end of June and decided to cease buying the company’s products. Fellow market competitors Strauss and Tzabar were spared the contamination, as they had conducted their own checks on the product.
“We understood that Shamir was marketing contaminated products and told them to recall the products,” added Prof. Grotto. Shamir has subsequently recalled products produced over the last ten days.
Additionally, over 200 tons of Prince Tahina products are to be destroyed. The Health Ministry alleges that the manufacturer had been aware of the contamination since July 24 and that it will be prosecuted for not having reported it.
“We have summoned Prince Tahina for a hearing before pressing charges against the company for placing the public’s health in danger,” Grotto informed.
“I have been working in this business for 30 years and this is the first time anything like this has ever happened,” responded Prince Tahina CEO Afif Tannus. “I take full responsibility.”
The decision came amid heavy criticism leveled recently at the Health Ministry after products infected with bacteria had recently slipped through its safeguards and made it to supermarket shelves.
The Health Ministry also said on Thursday that four tons of camel’s milk produced by Bereshit Milk were destroyed, after two children consuming it were hospitalized with an infection.
The frozen vegetable company Milotal is another company to announce a recall of its products, after it discovered that a line of frozen french fries was infected with Listeria bacteria.
In addition, a special Knesset session was held on Thursday after 240 boxes of cereal contaminated with salmonella had been placed on the market last week.
Food giant Unilever announced that a batch of its products had been infected with Salmonella at its Arad factory, but reassured the public that it had been discovered before the contaminated boxes hit the market. However, it was later revealed that 240 boxes had indeed reached certain stores, putting Unilever on the defensive. After an investigation, the Health Ministry found Unilever to be negligent in their safeguards and revoked their Arad factory’s license.
Tzvi Lev contributed to this article.