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Bottles of H.J. Heinz Co. Tomato Ketchup in London, England, February 15, 2013. Oli Scarff/Getty Images
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Food Fight! Israel Puts the Squeeze on Heinz Ketchup

Citing a lack of enough ‘tomato solids,’ the Health Ministry ruled that the iconic American red sauce must now be labeled ‘tomato seasoning’ rather than ‘ketchup’

Jas Chana
August 25, 2015
Oli Scarff/Getty Images
Bottles of H.J. Heinz Co. Tomato Ketchup in London, England, February 15, 2013. Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Following a ruling by the Israeli Health Ministry, the American food processing company Heinz will no longer be able to use the word “ketchup” on its iconic red tomato ketchup bottles. According to Newsweek, the ruling was based on the fact that the Heinz brand of ketchup does not contain sufficient amounts of “tomato solids” for it to be classified as ketchup, so it will now be termed simply as “tomato seasoning.” However, the ruling will only affect the labels printed in Hebrew, not English.

Newsweek reported Heinz’s Israeli ketchup competitor Osem, which owns a reported 66% market share of Israeli ketchup, has been plotting since the start of year to get the ruling put in place:

In January, Osem sent a letter to retailers which revealed it had tested Heinz ketchup in a “leading European external laboratory,” discovering that the condiment only held 21% of tomato concentrate, according to The Times of Israel. The findings were contrary to Heinz’s advertising, which said the content held 61% tomato concentrate. Israeli food standards require ketchup to hold 41% of tomato concentrate.

The letter was issued to Israeli government officials and retailers, lobbying them to take Heinz ketchup off the shelves. Heinz’s distributor, Diplomat, responded by issuing its own petition to try and change the Israeli definition of ketchup. Haaretz reported that the health ministry is now backing Diplomat in trying to change the regulations regarding tomato solids from 10% to 6%.

Heinz commented on the situation by telling Newsweek that “the Israeli standard for ketchup has yet to be brought in line with U.S. and European accepted international standards.” However, Haaretz reported that “the Histadrut labor federation’s consumer protection authority” is opposing Diplomat’s petition. The reason being that Histadrut “wants to make sure that children are eating as much tomato as possible in their ketchup.”

Jas Chana is a former intern at Tablet.

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