Elite chocolate products linked to Israeli Salmonella outbreak

Twenty-one cases of Salmonella infection may be linked to Strauss-Elite chocolate products manufactured in Nof HaGlil’, Israel, according to a report from the Israel Ministry of Health.

Six of the outbreak victims have been hospitalized.

Samples have been collected from 16 of the victims for lab analysis.

The timeline

On April 19, 2022, Strauss notified the Ministry of Health that Salmonella had been detected in the manufacturing area.

In response, the Ministry instructed Strauss to conduct more extensive testing of its finished products, raw materials, and production environment.

No recall was ordered, and there is no indication that either retailers or consumers were alerted to a potential problem at that time.

After finding additional Salmonella-positive samples, Strauss announced a voluntary recall of multiple Elite brand chocolate products on April 25th.

The following day, the Ministry of Health conducted an inspection of the Nof HaGlil’ production facility.

On April 27th, Strauss expanded its recall to include all expiration dates of “…all of the products manufactured by Elite’s chocolate factory, Elite cakes, Elite wafers, cereal energy bars, chocolate-coated energy rice crisps, bubble gums and taffy candies.”

Inspection results

During the course of its inspection, the Ministry of Health found “significant failings in the Company’s protocols and its conduct.”

As a result, the Ministry has suspended the company’s manufacturing certificate for a period of three months, or until all of the failings have been recitfied.

The issues highlighted in the Ministry’s news release include:

  • Over the last few months, maintenance works have been performed in the factory all the while the chocolate manufacturing actions continued unchanged, without taking into account the potential risks that may influence the manufacturing process and the factory’s quality control. 
  • During the Ministry of Health’s inspection, the Manufacturer disclosed that several weeks before there was an incident of pigeon infestation in the manufacturing area in the factory. The Company stated that the matter was dealt with immediately and that an exterminator was brought in. However, the Company was required to conduct extensive tests to check whether or not the pigeon infestation influenced the safety of the product in any way. 
  • It was found that the factory’s quality assurance staff has been replaced over the course of last year and that furthermore. Furthermore, the factory’s position for director of food safety was left temporarily vacant. These facts are indicative of the fact that the quality assurance and safety array in the factory was lacking. 
  • Upon the Ministry of Health’s inspection, it was found that a client of the factory has filed a complaint that salmonella indicators were higher than the levels permitted for liquid chocolate. However, the complaint was not processed by the factory as required and no tests were performed to determine the presence of salmonella bacteria. 
  • Upon inspection, a significant failing has been detected in the defrosting of the dairy fat component of milk chocolate. It was found that the defrosting process was not executed in accordance with the manufacturer’s defrosting and storage instructions, a failing that may lead to contamination. 

No link to Ferrero-Kinder Salmonella outbreak

To date, approximately 300 samples have been tested, and Salmonella has been recovered from thirty of them.

Fourteen of the cultures have been identified as Salmonella enterica S.16:1, v. –. Work is still in progress on the other samples.

This strain is completely different from the monophasic Salmonella Typhimurium cultures recovered from Ferrero-Kinder chocolates and from clinical samples in the multinational outbreak linked to those products.

Advice for consumers

The recalled chocolates were distributed to a number of countries around the world, including Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Spain, United Kingdom and United States.

  • Discard all Elite chocolate products.
  • If you have consumed an Elite chocolate product and are experiencing symptoms of Salmonella (diarrhea, fever, cramps and vomiting), consult your healthcare professional.

Learn more about Salmonella in chocolate in TAINTED. From Farm Gate to Dinner Plate, Fifty Years of Food Safety Failures, now available in digital, print and audiobook editions.

TAINTED formats 3
“Reads like a true crime novel” – Food Safety News

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