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.
Bad practice 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 Erik Andersen.
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 Jordanian border.
MS Action Aid Denmark says that several similar examples from the Vegetable Market and leading supermarket chains put the consumer in an impossible situation.
“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.
Edited by Julian Isherwood