Production has been stopped at a confectionery factory in Israel because of Salmonella concerns, with affected products also sent to the United States.

Strauss’ Elite-branded chocolate items such as cakes, wafers, energy grain snacks, energy chocolate rice cakes, chewing gum and toffee candies of all dates are affected.

They have been distributed in the kosher market nationally in the U.S., primarily in the Tri-State area of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, California, and Florida. Products have also been sold directly to customers via Amazon.com, Fresh Direct, Passover.com and all retailer online sites. No related illnesses have been reported. Recalls have also been issued in Australia and New Zealand.

There have been cases of illness in Israel reportedly linked to the confectionery products but this has not been confirmed by Israeli authorities.

Incident timeline
Salmonella was detected on a production line at the plant in Nof Hagalil and in the liquid chocolate used to make the finished products. The company has not responded to a request from Food Safety News about the type of Salmonella involved.

On April 19, Strauss reported that routine testing showed traces of Salmonella in the manufacturing area but not in food products sampled in the factory that had not been shipped yet. The firm was told to conduct extensive tests on the manufacturing area, products and raw materials. Two days later, rapid test results indicated Salmonella in the raw material.

On April 24, laboratory test results pointed to Salmonella contamination in the manufacturing area and the raw material. Strauss then issued a recall for all chocolate products made since early February.

Lab results received on April 27 indicated a suspicion of Salmonella in two samples of two chocolate products from 270 samples tested.

The Ministry of Health has ordered the company to investigate the cause of the incident and to take corrective actions to prevent it from reoccurring in the future. Resuming operations will be possible after the investigation has ended, corrective actions have been taken, manufacturing lines have been cleaned and sanitized and following an inspection and receipt of compliant test results.

The agency has suspended the plant’s approval for three months after findings from an audit. However, suspension can be lifted sooner if the identified deficiencies are corrected.

Eyal Dror, CEO of Strauss Israel, said it was being extra cautious and apologized for the “serious malfunction”.

“We will not take any risk regarding public health and due to the great confusion created among consumers, we decided…in cooperation and coordination with the food authority in the Ministry of Health to increase the cautious measures already taken and expand the product recall despite the fact that there is no evidence of Salmonella in these products.”

Production halted and other recalls
Strauss said operations at the factory will only be restarted when it is sure products are safe.

“We will study and learn from the incident, change and improve the testing system and return to production only when we know that the factory and production lines are in order and the products are safe.”

Unilever’s recall of products

Other food manufacturers, such as Unilever, that use the same raw materials as Strauss in their products, are also issuing recalls in Israel. In the case of Unilever, several types of ice cream are affected.

In Australia, Benedikt Imports Pty recalled various Elite branded confectionery products because of potential Salmonella. They had been available for sale nationally at Coles, Woolworths, IGAs, 7/11, independent Kosher stores and milk bars.

In New Zealand, affected items were sold at certain ethnic grocery stores and may have been provided to community groups. They were also part of a gift box from The Greys Ave Deli or The Kosher Deli in Auckland and online via the company’s website. There have been no confirmed illnesses in New Zealand or Australia.

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