Despite increased publicity regarding the labelling of Israeli settlement produce, and the recent DEFRA guidance on the matter which states that produce from the settlements should be labelled as such, it only took us a few minutes inside the illegal Jordan Valley settlement of Mehola to find herbs bound for a British company being mislabelled. Herbs bearing the logo of Fresh Direct, who have their head office in Oxfordshire, were spotted inside the Halpert Moshe ‘fresh herbs’ packing house which operates under the Carmel Agrexco banner. At this location herbs being prepared came with a joint Fresh Direct/Carmel Agrexco label which clearly states the product as being “Produce of Israel”, despite being packaged in an organic farm on an illegal settlement in the Israeli occupied West Bank. The label we collected was for 70 grams of sage with the text written in English, indicating that the contents were intended for export to Britain. There were also herbs labelled in German (without the Fresh Direct logo) inside the packing house.
Not only does this kind of labelling go against the the call for a distinction to be made between settlement and Palestinian produce -it goes one step further by not even acknowledging that the product is grown in the West Bank. The DEFRA advice regarding labelling of settlement produce, published in December 2009, is clear about the illegality of this practice: “the Government considers that traders would be misleading consumers, and would therefore almost be certainly committing an offence, if they were to declare produce from the OPT (including from the West Bank) as ‘Produce of Israel’. This would apply irrespective of whether the produce was from a Palestinian producer or from an Israeli settlement in the OPT. This is because the area does not fall within the internationally recognised borders of the state of Israel” (to read the full advice from DEFRA see http://www.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/food/pdf/labelling-palestine.pdf).
The particular label that we collected contains the “traceability” number 08209306 and the grower ID number 675256. If there are any organic farmers out there who know what this means and fancy helping us out, please send us an email on email@example.com
Fresh Direct have local branches all across Britain, as well as an office in the United Arab Emirates. Their head office address is Freshdirect (UK) Ltd, Bicester Distribution Park, Charbridge Way, Bicester, Oxfordshire OX26 4SW , phone 01869 365600. For local branches see http://www.freshdirect.co.uk/contact.aspx