Five Health Ministry officials plead guilty to committing acts likely to spread disease and were sentenced to community service, as part of a plea bargain approved Sunday by the Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court.
The officials were sentenced for their part in the 2003 Remedia formula affair, which led to the deaths of three infants and injury to more than 20 others who suffered from malnutrition because crucial ingredients were missing from the company’s baby formula.
According to the indictment, the Health Ministry employees, four inspectors responsible for releasing food imports from quarantine at the Haifa and Ashdod ports and the then-head of the ministry’s National Food Service, were professionally negligent, having failed to properly check the documents and contents of the baby formula before it was released for distribution, offenses that carry a maximum sentence of three years in prison.
Magistrate’s court Judge Lia Lev-On accepted the plea agreement, stating that in her opinion, the minimum requirement would be 500 hours of community service for the accused, but delayed the final sentencing to a later date.
The five are will also face disciplinary hearings before the State Ombudsman.
The Central District Attorney’s Office said that the decision not to seek a trial for the five was reasonable in light of their relatively small role in the affair. The prosecution added that the fact that the five admitted to their guilt and took responsibility for their actions provided mitigating considerations for leniency.
The trial of the others accused in the case, Remedia employees, Frederick Black, who was in charge of quality control and research and development; Gideon Landsberger, Remedia’s general-manager and Moshe Miller, the owner of the company, is still proceeding.
These three face more serious charges, including causing death by
negligence, causing harm by negligence and obstruction of justice.
to the indictment, the harm to the children was caused because the
German Milchwerke Westfalen EG (Humana GmbH) company, which supplied the
formula to Remedia in Israel, did not include vitamin B1 (thiamine) in a
new vegetarian formula it began manufacturing in 2003.
indictment stated that although senior officials in Remedia knew that
Humana had decided to stop adding vitamin B1, it did nothing about it.
Furthermore, it retained the old list of ingredients on the label of
each tin of new formula.
Judy Siegel contributed to this report.