Consumer information that vegetables and herbs are ‘Made in Israel’ does not
necessarily mean that they in fact do come from Israel.
Herbs, dates and vegetables that Danes buy in their local supermarket often
come from one of the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank although
packaging says that they come from Israel.
A survey carried out by DanWatch shows that peppers and dates sold in the
Føtex supermarket chain , for example, can be traced to settlements in the
Jordan Valley in the West Bank.
Similar origins can be traced for herbs such as lemon balm, basil and estragon
that are sold to hotels and restaurants throughout the country.
The Food Standards Agency says the practice is bad practice.
“The rules are very clear. You cannot write that produce comes from Israel if
it comes from an Israeli settlement from the occupied regions of the West
Bank. That would be misleading and wrong markings,” says Agency Spokesman
DanWatch has surveyed the Vegetable Market in Copenhagen and found cases with
Ada Fresh marjoram and basil, prominently marked ‘Made in Israel’.
A closer look, however, shows that the producer is Yinon Rosenblum, whose
production is in the Naama settlement in the West Bank, close to the
MS Action Aid Denmark says that several similar examples from the Vegetable
Market and leading supermarket chains put the consumer in an impossible
“If you want to buy produce from Israel, but do not want to buy produce from
illegal settlements, you cannot choose because all produce is marked as if
it is from Israel. That is not a good situation as consumers cannot purchase
goods and follow official Danish policy – that the settlements are illegal,
should not be supported and are a core hurdle for peace in the area,” says
MS Political Adviser Kirsten Hjørnholm Sørensen.
Not first time
The latest discoveries are far from the first time that the problem has
been highlighted. In 2004, the Consumer Ombudsman ruled that produce from
settlements must not be marked as coming from Israel.
“The authorities have focussed on this issue for years without anything having
happened,” says Hjørnholm Sørensen.
The British Food Standards Agency tightened its guidelines in late 2009
following complaints from outlets, consumers and NGOs.
SocDems: same rules
Social Democratic Foreign Policy Spokesman and former Foreign Minister Mogens
Lykketoft has repeatedly tried to focus on the issue.
“It’s the least we can do. Nowadays it is simply not possible to be a
politically aware consumer,” Lykketoft says adding that the EU’s special
agreement with Israel excludes settlements.
“The agreement is clear. The free trade agreement we have with Israel does not
include the occupied territories. But both the EU and the Danish authorities
have neglected every opportunity to tighten and enforce the rules.
One of the supermarket chains that sells produce that is wrongly marked
is Føtex, which is owned by Dansk Supermarked. Among others, Føtex has sold
peppers from Fadida Ofer from the Tomer settlement. Produce packaging says
the vegetables are from Israel.
“I am surprised because we have signed an agreement with our supplier that we
do not get produce from settlements, but just from Israel. This is a clear
breach of faith and a very serious situation,” says Dansk Supermarked
Procurement Manager Peter Løth.
“Irrespective of whether this is a general problem or a one-off thing, it
will result in us stopping our cooperation with the supplier,” says Løth.
Although Dansk Supermarked requires extensive documentation from suppliers to
ensure that produce actually comes from where it is said to.
“But at the end of the day, trade is based on trust. We cannot be everywhere
at the same time,” says Løth.
Politiken has been unable to get comments from importers at the Vegetable
Market in Copenhagen.