Fancy food ain’t safe food Israeli edition: not a floor you’d want to eat off

Gourmet products manufacturer Olivia may describe its production facility as a pastoral-sounding "wooden house with a chimney" emitting the aroma of "a true kitchen," but it’s a kitchen that is characterized by unhygienic conditions, ranging from mold in its dried-tomato storage containers to filth and creepy-crawlies on the floor.

The Marker reports that founded in 1990 by Yoel Benesh, Tnuva completed its buyout in 2002. Olivia sells its upmarket sauces and spreads in Israel, the United States, France and England. It also manufactures products for the Israeli foods companies Strauss, Maadanot and Sunfrost, and for American burgers giant McDonald’s. In Israel its products command 8% of the market for sauces, 5% of the market for salad dressing, 2% of the soy sauce market and 2% of the market for margarine.

The "house" of Olivia is actually a 4,000-square-meter plant in Rehovot with 26 employees, which the company says produces healthy, quality gourmet products. But The Marker has obtained pictures showing that inside, the conditions have apparently been unsanitary for years.

Early one morning last October, worms were documented on the plant’s floor (the company later said they were caterpillars ). Workers related that for a long time, the sewage system had been backing up and often flooded the floor by the production line. In the room where bottles and jars are filled, the sewage trap was open and a pump installed inside transferred the filth to a channel passing inside the containers room.

A second food technician The Marker consulted says the sewage channel shouldn’t be open, and that it suggested that the system is constantly clogged.
The company stated that in September 2010, the plant’s sewage line broke down.

In October 2011, the production line shut down for three days after a worker complained about the unhygienic conditions to Tnuva, action he took, he claimed, after he was ignored by the Olivia management. A tape The Marker obtained features Tnuva executive Yigal Gali saying, "I’m in shock. Yesterday I heard [Tnuva internal auditor] Margalit [Shperber], who saw worms on the floor with her own eyes. When I went downstairs, I saw a production line working with glass shards on the floor."

Yoel Benesh, present at that conversation, said on the tape that he’d been struggling with the hygiene issue for four years. "Not long ago I went downstairs and saw the Universal machine [which makes sauces] filthy."

Tnuva’s quality manager, Michal Amsterdam, commented during the exchange that the problem with hygiene had been around a long time: "What’s missing is resources to clean."

Benesh summed up: "What’s needed here is a root canal, like they did at Maadanot. First of all clean, then work. It hasn’t happened here for 1,001 reasons."

After that meeting, Gali convened the plant’s workers and ordered them to undertake a cleaning blitz, and vowed to change sanitary standards at the plant.
The tape ends with one worker joking, "This place looks like a garage. All it needs is a calendar with naked women."