Tnuva will compensate customers to the tune of NIS 55 million for adding silicone to its ultra-high-temperature milk between January 1994 and September 1995, the Tel Aviv District Court ruled Tuesday.
In a class-action suit, the court found that Tnuva added 10 times more silicone than the maximum allowed, and "it was not a mistake, but a planned deception bordering on fraud and a serious breach of trust toward consumers and regulatory authorities," Judge Amiram Benyamini ruled. "Tnuva knew very well it was acting against the law and standards, and tried to hide its methods of operation."
The court did not spare the Health Ministry either. After the exposure of the affair, the ministry published ads to calm the public, saying there was no danger involved in drinking the milk. But Benyamini said: "It seems the Health Ministry took care to protect itself ... because its lack of supervision of Tnuva was exposed."
The court estimated that there are about 220,000 people with a right to compensation, which comes out to about NIS 250 each.
The court decided that instead of giving the money to consumers, the funds would be used in ways such as a price reduction, research and scholarships in food and nutrition, and free milk for the needy.
Tnuva said the judgment was excessive and unprecedented, and is considering its next steps.
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