Israeli oranges aren’t from Australia

The fact that this story appears in Australia’s leading Murdoch broadsheet is encouraging. Anything from Israel must be clearly marked as such. Why shouldn’t it be? Consumers should know that Israeli products face a global boycott campaign.

The NSW government has warned Coles to stop labelling imported fruit as Australian produce, amid suggestions the food giant is branding Israeli fruit as local to avoid a consumer boycott.

Primary Industries Minister Steve Whan said yesterday the NSW Food Authority had “recently been made aware of breaches in relation to the country of origin labelling of unpackaged fresh produce in a small number of food retail businesses”.

“In keeping with the authority’s graduated enforcement policy, a warning letter was issued to the offending businesses; we are continuing to monitor the situation and in the event further breaches are found these businesses risk further enforcement action,” Mr Whan said.

“Labelling imported food as Australian is up there with one of the most un-Australian things you can do.”

Although Mr Whan did not identify the retailers concerned, Coles spokesman Jim Cooper yesterday confirmed Coles was one of those to have been contacted by the Food Authority. “We are currently following up the queries and will respond to the Food Authority in due course,” Mr Cooper said.

The government crackdown comes after a Sydney City councillor, Irene Doutney, and individual consumers reported on extensive evidence that Coles was mislabelling fruit.

Ms Doutney said that at Coles Broadway, “Fruit such as Jaffa red grapefruit, which other shops have correctly labelled ‘product of Israel’, is being labelled as a ‘product of Australia’.”

Mr Cooper said activists with a “pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli” bent had tried to apply pressure on Coles over its purchase of Israeli products.

But he insisted: “Any allegation that fruit is being deliberately mislabelled to avoid action from pressure groups on political matters is ridiculous.”