More than 20 people could be sick in Israel in a Salmonella outbreak because of chocolate products made by Strauss.

The Israeli Ministry of Health reported 21 patients of various ages are linked to the incident and six have been hospitalized. Samples were collected from 16 cases and results will be available in the coming days.

According to test results received so far, there is no link between the Israeli chocolate incident and the Ferrero monophasic Salmonella typhimurium outbreak that has affected 200 people in 12 countries from Kinder chocolate products made in Belgium.

This past week, the Ministry of Health inspected Strauss’s factory in Nof Hagalil. This uncovered “significant” failings in the company’s protocols. The agency has suspended the plant’s approval for three months or until the issues detected during the visit have been rectified. Strauss is expected to address the failings and respond to the findings within 14 days.

Widely distributed products
Strauss has recalled Elite branded items such as cakes, wafers, energy grain snacks, energy chocolate rice cakes, chewing gum and toffee candies of all dates. They were distributed in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain and the United Kingdom.

From about 300 samples collected from the factory’s production line, raw materials, in-progress products and finished items both within the factory and from the market, about 30 positives have been found. Salmonella was detected on a production line and in the liquid chocolate used to make finished products.

Positive samples have been sent to the National Salmonella Center at the Ministry of Health’s Public Health Laboratory to determine the type of Salmonella.

Strauss has previously apologized for the contamination and via a statement said: “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.”

Findings from inspection
The inspection revealed that maintenance had been performed in the factory in the past few months while chocolate making continued unchanged. The Ministry of Health said potential risks to the manufacturing process and quality control measures were not taken into account.

The plant’s quality assurance staff had been replaced during the course of the past year and the director of food safety role was vacant. The Ministry of Health said these findings point to quality assurance and safety being lacking in the factory.

It was also revealed that an unnamed client had filed a complaint that Salmonella indicators were higher than the levels permitted for liquid chocolate. However, the alert was not processed by the company as required and no tests were done to determine the presence of Salmonella.

Several weeks before the audit there was a pigeon infestation in the manufacturing area of the site. The company said this was dealt with immediately and an exterminator was used.

Inspectors uncovered a problem in defrosting the dairy fat component of milk chocolate. This process was not done in line with the manufacturer’s defrosting and storage instructions, which may lead to contamination.

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