Sometimes attempting to save costs can be detrimental to the credibility of a company vis-à-vis consumers, even if it was not the company's explicit intent. This is the conclusion reached from the story of a couple who sent a written complaint titled "forging kosher certification or selling kosher shrimp?"
The couple had purchased a red curry dish at the Blue Square branch of the Ayalon Mall in Ramat Gan. The packaging of the dish, imported from Thailand by Oriental Food Imports Ltd., noted that the product was Kosher Parve and certified by the Chief Rabbinate. It also noted that it was certified for use by Badatz.
The couple wrote in their complaint that the label listed the ingredients that included several spices, there was no mention however of organic ingredients. Their suspicion was aroused due to their familiarity with the product.
The English label (Photo: Nadav Noked)
To their surprise, the English label noted that one of the ingredients was shrimp paste, which, plain and simple, is not kosher.
"The placement of the label completely covers the problematic ingredients in a way that indicates that there is an attempt to conceal these ingredients from the Israeli consumer who is naturally concerned about vegetarian and kashrut matters."
When confronting the company however, it became apparent that the problem was not that the product is not kosher, but that in its attempt to cut costs it didn't bother to remove the English label from the original packaging, despite the fact that many of the ingredients in the imported product, such as the shrimp paste, are not included. In fact, according to the importer, the product sold in Israel only includes vegetarian ingredients.
"First rate Kosher products"
Oriental Foods said in response that all the company's products marketed throughout the food chains in Israel bear first rate kosher certification.
"As part of the research and development process, the company launched an experimental kosher curry dish in 2005. Our curry dishes were produced under the strictest production processes and rabbinate supervision," said a company official.
He went on to say that due to the small quantity of the experimental dish, Oriental Foods decided not to change the original labels due to the high cost of manufacturing a small quantity of labels. Instead they covered the original packaging with a Hebrew label listing the product's ingredients as required by law.
The company spokesman added that all the ingredients are indeed vegetarian, and should the company continue marketing the product it promises to change the labels. "We apologize for the inconvenience caused to our consumers." He said.
The Kosher Hatam Sofer said in response that "the product is indeed kosher and under our supervision, it includes natural ingredients only. The plant in Thailand is supervised by us and there is nothing to be concerned about.