Health Ministry Declares Zero Tolerance Policy in Israel's Salmonella Saga

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Bottles of tahini.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

Against the backdrop of the recent discovery of salmonella bacteria in breakfast cereals and in prepared salads, the director general of the Health Ministry, Moshe Bar Siman Tov, told the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee on Tuesday that his ministry will show zero tolerance from now on for any manufacturer that fails to report laboratory results that show the presence of salmonella in its products.

Last week, the Health Ministry suspended Prince Tahini’s production license after salmonella was found in its packaged sesame spread. Unilever's Telma cereals were pulled from the shelves at the end of July after a contamination at the plant.

The chairman of the Knesset committee, Eli Alalouf (Kulanu), called for the creation of a single entity to bring together all of the oversight authority in the field, which is currently dispersed among a number of ministries.

People infected with salmonella often have no symptoms, but some develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps, typically within eight to 72 hours after ingesting the bacterial. Most healthy people recover within a few days without treatment, but life-threatening complications can result if the infection spreads.

Dr. Moshe Rafalovitch, who chairs the organization of veterinarians working at the local government level, told the committee hearing that salmonella is a major issue and “not another marginal problem discovered now,” and ranges beyond the products that have recently been in the public eye.

“One can say that most of the public who consume eggs and chicken consume salmonella,” he said, adding that his organization has been warning about the situation for some time. The government, he said, has to intervene.

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