TEL AVIV – Unilever has had its manufacturing license suspended by Israel’s Health Ministry on Sunday, after a breakfast cereal infected with salmonella was shipped out of its Israeli factory.
The ministry carried out an inspection of Unilever’s Arad plant and said the company had been negligent.
“This was a series of negligent mistakes, and not an incident with malicious intent by the firm’s management and quality control procedures,” a statement from the ministry read.
For over a month, the company was also reportedly not aware that it had sent out 240 boxes of contaminated cereal, including Cornflakes, Delipecan and Cocoman – all marketed by Telma. According to Channel 10, the boxes were not found on supermarket shelves nor in storerooms and are thought to have been sold by supermarket chain, Shufersal.
According to Haaretz, Unilever knew of the problem but sought to hide it from the public. A supermarket employee recognized the bad shipment from the production date. The company had accidentally shipped the batch over five weeks earlier without the management’s knowledge.
The ministry said that its investigation was ongoing and that inspections would continue on a daily basis until the source of the contamination is found. In the meantime, the company would have its Good Manufacturing permit revoked.
“Given the incident, and together with the hearing, the Good Manufacturing Practice license of the company has been suspended until they carry out a number of corrections and report on them,” the statement read.
The Knesset State Control Committee will convene for an urgent discussion on Tuesday on how the Health Ministry can prevent future cases like this.
Knesset State Control Committee Chair MK Karin Elharar (Yesh Atid) critiqued the ministry for allowing companies too much autonomy.
“Israel can’t rely on the self-reporting of companies. The Health Ministry has to scrutinize production lines. We want to ask: Where the Health Ministry’s role was in this?” Elharar said.