Charity accuses Waitrose over Israeli goods

22 April 2010 - 2:15pm
Press release

'Retailer misleading customers on illegal settlements'

 

The anti-poverty charity War on Want today accused supermarket retailer Waitrose of misleading customers in its claims to have ceased stocking goods from illegal Israeli settlements.

In recent months Waitrose has faced complaints and protests from people across the UK about its continued sale of goods from Israeli settlements, which are ruled illegal under international law.

In a statement to War on Want, the supermarket chain branded "untrue" the charity's allegation that Waitrose stocked goods from settlements, and asked War on Want to publicise the statement to its members.

This came after campaigners from the charity and other activists protested at the retailer's Barbican store in London and demanded an end to sales of settlement goods.

But investigations by War on Want have found Waitrose continues to sell settlement goods.

These include three types of halva from the company Achva, all of which are clearly labelled as produced in the Barkan settlement in the West Bank.

War on Want executive director John Hilary said: "It is unacceptable for Waitrose to stock products from illegal Israeli settlements. This makes it complicit in the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. Waitrose should live up to its ethical claims and stop stocking any goods from illegal Israeli settlements or it will continue to face protests."

The criticism from War on Want comes only four months after the UK government introduced voluntary guidance on the labelling of fresh produce from settlements.

Waitrose states that it has stopped sourcing herbs from Israeli settlements under its own brand label. War on Want welcomes this move, but urges Waitrose to stop the sale of all settlement products immediately.

NOTES TO EDITORS

  • War on Want executive director John Hilary is available for interview.
  • War on Want is concerned that Waitrose is stocking other goods which are labelled "made in Israel" but may also be produced in illegal Israeli settlements. These include cookies from the company Abadi, which is known to produce goods from within the Atarot industrial zone, a settlement in the West Bank.
  • Earlier this year the UK government expressed its concerns at the traceability of all products marked 'made in Israel' and admitted that shoppers cannot be completely sure that supermarket goods labelled this way are not sourced from settlers' farms. In a parliamentary adjournment debate on the EU-Israel Association Agreement on 27 January 2010, Sarah McCarthy-Fry MP, the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, said: "In June 2008, Revenue and Customs received information that suggested that the fact that an Israeli place of production and postcode is included on the proof of preferential origin does not necessarily mean that the products concerned - notably fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs - originated in Israel. There were concerns that the location and code may simply refer to a company's head office or distribution centre in the state, the produce concerned having actually been grown or produced on a farm in a settlement.

    "Such concerns were repeated in various press articles and television news stories, which also raised concerns about the labelling by UK supermarkets of fresh produce, such as herbs and avocado pears, which some had admitted to purchasing from Israeli-managed farms in the settlements. While the correct labelling of products after importation is not the responsibility of Revenue and Customs, it recognised that it is not possible to establish from documentary checks alone whether produce is labelled as originating in a place other than an Israeli location."

CONTACT: Paul Collins, War on Want media officer (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 or (0)7983 550728

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