Blog: Dean BestHeinz under fire in Israel - but label still says 'ketchup'

Dean Best | 25 August 2015

Heinz's flagship product has provoked the ire of a competitor in Israel, a story that has attracted headlines in the international mainstream media. But even after making a change to the labels, a bottle of the red sauce can still use the word 'ketchup' in English.

After Israel's Health Ministry found Heinz's product on sale in the country did not meet the local regulations needed to call the sauce 'ketchup', the company and its importer made a wording change on labels.

'Heinz tomato ketchup cannot be called ketchup in Israel' and 'Israel rules Heinz isn't ketchup' were among the international headlines that greeted the story.

And, while the sauce cannot be called ketchup in Hebrew, the product still has the word 'ketchup' in English on the front of the packaging, which in a country where many consumers can understand English, seems not to be the ideal conclusion for the company that brought the complaint, Israeli food group Osem Investments.

"The word ketchup is indicated in English on the front of the bottle while recognising that the Israeli standard for ketchup has yet to be brought in line with US and European accepted international standards, the back label of our ketchup sold in Israel reflects current local requirements for ingredient labelling and the hebrew name for the product," a spokesperson for Kraft Heinz Co. told just-food.

According Osem, in which Nestle owns a majority stake, the affair started in September when Heinz's distributor in Israel started importing Heinz ketchup products manufactured in the Netherlands, instead of the US.

Osem says the new products were labelled – in Hebrew – as "a new recipe" and as if the product contained 61% tomato concentrate, which the Israel group questioned. It said tests conducted by "a leading European lab" found the new products include 17-20% tomato concentrate – while the ingredients listed on the package indicated 61%.

Israeli standards require any product to include at least 28% tomato concentrate in order to be called ketchup, Osem says.

After approaching the Heinz distributor, Diplomat Ltd, to no avail, Osem contacted Israel's Health Ministry.

"Last week, Osem learned that Diplomat after all its denials, amended the label on their ketchup product: instead of 'ketchup' in Hebrew they present it now as 'tomato seasoning'. Their move indicates that they admit to not complying with Israeli standards and misleading consumers," Osem told just-food.

"Diplomat applied to the Israeli Standards Institute, demanding to change Israeli standards for ketchup and reduce the required percentage of tomato concentrate for ketchup products in Israel. We understand that consumers' organisations strongly object the proposed change as lowering the required tomato percentage means more sugar and salt in ketchup.

"Given their world-wide presence and the variety of ketchup products and sauces they produce and market, Heinz should be able to supply Israeli consumers a ketchup that will meet the required quality standards and respect the local regulation."

Kraft Heinz Co. had not returned a request for comment on whether Diplomat had requested changes to the standards at the time of publication.

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