In response to a petition by a competing local ketchup manufacturer, the Israeli Health Ministry has ruled that Heinz ketchup does not meet the local standard for tomato content and must not label itself as such.
According to Newsweek, the decision affects only the product’s Hebrew-language packaging; it will still be called ketchup in English.
In January, Israeli food manufacturer Osem sent a letter to retailers indicating it had had the Heinz product tested at a “leading European external laboratory,” and despite Heinz’s claims its product contains 61 percent tomato concentrate, test results revealed a mere 21 percent. Israeli standards require a condiment contain at least 41 percent tomato concentrate to be called ketchup.
Osem, which currently dominates the ketchup market in Israel, appears to want its competitor removed from the shelves. Heinz’s Israeli distributor, Diplomat, responded in January, “Obviously, Osem, which has a monopoly, would be happy if it were only possible to sell their product in Israel. But Osem’s claims have no substance. It is relying on a standard that is not official or binding. This assertion is backed by legal opinion!”
Diplomat is filing a petition to have the standard for ketchup in Israel brought in line with the rest of the world, from ten percent tomato solids to just six. The move has the support of the health ministry’s food division, according to Haaretz.
In an email to Newsweek, the distributor wrote, “Ketchup fans in Israel continue to enjoy Heinz Tomato Ketchup, the world’s favourite ketchup first created by Heinz in 1876,” the statement said.
“The word ketchup is indicated in English on the front of the bottle while recognizing that the Israeli standard for ketchup has yet to be brought in line with U.S. 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.”
For the time being, Heinz ketchup will be labelled “tomato seasoning” in Hebrew.