Health Ministry admits it cannot prevent salmonella infections at retail level

By
September 18, 2015 01:06

3 minute read.



Omer miller

Omer miller's Chicken drumsticks in Ras El Hanut. (photo credit: BEN YUSTER)

Beware of uncooked or undercooked poultry: Most of Israeli chickens and other poultry contain salmonella bacteria, which are especially harmful to young children, older adults and people of all ages who have impaired immune systems.

Salmonella infections can cause acute diarrhea, from which healthy people usually recover. However, those with compromised immune systems can develop reactive arthritis, long lasting pain in joints which can become chronic. People with reactive arthritis can also develop eye irritation and may suffer from painful urination.

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One can be infected not only by eating poultry that is not properly cooked, but also by eating food that has been in contact with kitchen surfaces where the salmonella bacteria exist and breed.

During a meeting of the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee on Thursday regarding the “cornflakes reform” (to lower prices of dry food, via the Treasury’s Arrangements Bill), Shufersal’s chief veterinarian, Dr. Roni Surkis, said that “it’s known that most poultry in this country contain salmonella bacteria. We are as careful as we can be, but Health Ministry [inspectors] arrive only from time to time with press teams and attack us. The matter is not proper.”

Former health minister, Yesh Atid MK Yael German, said that if poultry has salmonella bacteria, it must be confiscated.” Her fellow party member MK Meir Cohen asked: “What do the authorities do when they find the bacteria in chicken while inspecting stores?” Dr. Yoni Yinon of the ministry’s National Food Service conceded that poultry has the bacteria “in addition to other pathogens. Thus it is mandatory that it be cooked. We have a national program to reduce the bacteria, as they do abroad, by explaining the dangers and how to avoid them. The bacteria exist in raw poultry, which must not been consumed without proper cooking using heat,” he said. “We are not looking for treatment at the marketing stage, only at the national stage, like dealing with it at chicken farms and the like,” he said.

Knesset committee chairman MK Eli Alalouf said the official’s words were “outrageous, but I am not convinced that you don’t allow the sale of poultry that is dangerous to public health.”

Justice Ministry lawyer Edna Harel said, “Today we base ourselves on old regulations in the field, and it’s time for us to act according the European model – to ease imports and transfer responsibility to other links in the chain.”

Lilah Dahuah, a lawyer for the Co-op Blue Square supermarket chain, told the committee that she objected to the clause in the bill that would prevent the sale of food with bacteria because it was “too strict. This is the beginning of endless class-action suits. Why should I be responsible for failures of the manufacturer/ producer, as in the Remedia baby-food case [in which baby formula deficient of vital vitamins caused the death of a number of children]? Dahuah received a reply from Ronen Regev-Kabir, head of the voluntary organization Public Faith: “It is mandatory to place responsibility also on the marketers, with exact tools and direction.”

The director of the ministry’s National Food Service, Eli Gordon, declared: “It is completely clear that the importer and manufacturer have more responsibility. But, it may be that food that is not stored properly is harmed due to negligence of the retailer.”

The committee chairman concluded that “we will not endanger the health of the consumer or reduce their awareness of the quality and contents of the food they eat.”

The National Food Service official maintained that the statistics presented by the committee “were not new or different than in previous years” and that consumers of poultry should implement the food handling advice presented on its website (in Hebrew) at http://bit.ly/1KTy1fx.


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