LONDON, Oct 19- Nestle said it “temporarily shut down” one of its production plants in Israel as a “precaution,” becoming the first consumer products giant to announce a response to the conflict there. Several global companies have temporarily shut some operations in the country and asked their employees to work from home after the surprise attack by Palestinian Islamist group Hamas earlier this month. However, other packaged goods companies have remained quiet, even as retail, healthcare, and oil companies have rushed to voice their positions.
Nestle, the world’s largest food and beverage company, is based in Switzerland but has maintained a presence in Israel since the 1930s, operating various production and distribution centers. The company offers a wide range of goods in the Israeli market, from infant formula to chocolate and coffee.
The company is monitoring the situation in Israel closely and will take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of its employees. It also works to ensure an uninterrupted supply of Lilly medicines to patients in the region remains available. The biopharmaceutical company expects no significant impact on its business or financial and operational performance.
Amid the escalation in the Middle East, US President Joe Biden visited Israel on Tuesday, calling for an end to the fighting. He said the United States will stand by Israel and will work to help prevent the outbreak of a broader war in the region.
Several global companies have shut some operations in Israel and asked their employees to work from home, including American Express (AXP.N), Goldman Sachs (GS.N) and JPMorgan Chase (JPM.N). Hundreds of thousands of workers have left their jobs protesting the war, while some international airlines have stopped flights to and from Tel Aviv.
Last week, the borough of Bergen County, where the Nestle plant is located, urged residents to stay safe. In a statement, the borough’s mayor and council members praised the employees at the plant for their “professionalism during this difficult time” and pledged to offer support if needed. The borough says the plant employs 200 people and pays over $25 million yearly in property taxes.
Nestle has faced criticism in the past over its use of animal testing. The company argues that the tests are essential to research fundamental nutrition and health science aspects. But animal rights group BUAV said the public would be shocked to learn that their well-known high street brands, such as tea and probiotic yogurt, are used in sickening animal experiments.
Nestle chief executive Paul Bulcke said he was open to ending the practice. However, the company has been pressured by investors to keep up with growing product demand and weakening sales of its weight-loss drugs. The company’s latest results showed underwhelming growth, with total sales up only 0.4% to 68.8 billion Swiss francs in the three months to September.