Exeter Palestine Solidarity Campaign

 

Welcome to the Exeter Palestine Solidarity Campaign Website. Last updated: 17 January, 2010

Letter Trail

On each page you will find an e-mail/letter (latest first) to DEFRA and a local supermarket as an example of such correspondence.  Use these to formulate your own questions when writing...

 


-----Original Message-----
 Sent: Friday, October 31, 2008 6:00 PM
To: 'helpline@defra.gsi.gov.uk'
Subject: Labelling of Occupied Territory goods (Palestine/Israel)
Please forward to the relevant department. thank you

Dear DEFRA

I am writing regarding labelling of goods from the Occupied Territories found in TESCO and SAINSBURY'S supermarkets labelled WEST BANK. See below for their e-mails .

I have read your statement on the website from and refer to the section which clearly states, " for both fruit and vegetables and for other products the broad purpose of EC labelling rules is to avoid misleading the consumer. Under EC law, the origin of a product for retail labelling purposes can be given as a region or other geographical indication that does not equate to a country or state, provided that the meaning is clear to the consumer"

I contend that in the case of Medjoul dates and fresh herbs labelled WEST BANK, which I have recently found in my local supermarkets, the term is definitley misleading to the consumer; The West Bank being associated with Palestine and the Palestinians in the consumer's mind. The customer should be allowed full and unambiguous imformation as to the origin of the products , which in both cases is Israeli settlements. Only then will the customer be fully aware of the facts and can  make an informed decision.

Both supermarkets maintain they are fully complying with DEFRA guidelines with their current labelling policy. I would, therefore, welcome your clarification on this important matter.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely



-----Original Message-----
From: customerservice@sainsburys.co.uk [mailto:customerservice@sainsburys.co.uk]
Subject: RE: RE: WEST BANK labelling

 

Dear

Thank you for your further email.  I am sorry you feel I have failed to address the main points in your email. 

I appreciate it is important to make sure customers can make an informed choice between Palestinian produce and produce from Israeli settlements.  This is why our products are clearly labeled as West Bank.  This term is a legitimate legal term used to describe that
area.  We would expect that customers who feel strongly about not buying produce from Israeli settlements will be aware of this term. 

Suppliers are bound by the DEFRA and European Commission regulations about the labelling of produce grown in Israeli settlements.  We source only from those suppliers who follow DEFRA's guidelines. 

I understand you would like us to clearly state Israeli settlements as the origin of any products sourced from the west bank area.  Please be assured that I have passed your suggestion on to our packaging design team.  They will discuss customer feedback in their next review meeting and take any necessary action.

I appreciate that this is very important to you.  We are happy to provide our customers with any information they require, whenever possible.  However, I am sorry to say that this is all the information we hold on this matter. 

Once again, I would like to thank you for taking the time to write to us.  We appreciate you giving us the chance to explain our position on this issue. 

Kind regards

Natalie Sweeney Customer Manager Sainsbury's



-----Original Message-----
 Sent: Sunday, September 21, 2008 12:21 PM
To: Customer.Service@sainsburys.co.uk
Subject: WEST BANK labelling

Dear Ms Sweeney

Many thanks for your rapid reply and addressing some of our points.  We do feel, however, that the main points have yet to be addressed.

Firstly would you agree that Sainsbury’s should not be dealing with suppliers from Israeli settlements who are making a profit from breaking international law (and UK law, as the UK is a signatory to the Geneva Convention).  We highlight once again the Minister’s unequivocal stance on this matter,” “it is essential to [ensure] that customers can make an informed choice between Palestinian produce and produce from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law”.

Our second point is that the EU and DEFRA labeling guidelines state, ““under EC law, the origin of a product for retail labelling purposes can be given as a region or other geographical indication that does not equate to a country or state, provided that the meaning is clear to the consumer”.  Your  WEST BANK label does not make it clear to the consumer that this produce is sourced in the Israeli settlements.  You should therefore, as a minimum, clearly state ‘Israleli settlements’ on your own labels to be completely transparent.  If you think we are wrong on this matter, please explain how a customer can differentiate produce source from your current labelling?

Of course we would prefer you to accept that produce from WEST BANK Israeli settlements constitutes trading in illegal produce and therefore not stock such products in future.  We are however open to an explanation of your labelling policy and would appreciate an answer to the two questions we have raised.

Regards



-----Original Message-----
From: customerservice@sainsburys.co.uk [mailto:customerservice@sainsburys.co.uk]
Sent: Friday, September 19, 2008 10:49 AM
Subject: RE: RE: WEST BANK labelling

Dear  
Thank you for your further email.  I understand you would like more information on the products we sell that are from Israeli settlements.

We have a good relationship with our suppliers and constantly check that their products are sourced ethically. This includes making sure that settlement produce is not mixed in with Israeli produce.

Suppliers are bound by the DEFRA and European Commission regulations about the labelling of produce grown in Israeli settlements. As the retailer, we ensure that we also follow these regulations and offer our customers an informed choice.  We do this by showing correct labelling that adheres to DEFRA and EU labelling standards and will continue to do so.

I understand you would like us to provide an alternative to all Israeli products.  Please be assured that I have passed your comments on to our buyers for their consideration.  They will discuss customer feedback in their next review meeting and take any necessary action.  If enough customers would like to see certain products on our shelves, we will certainly do our best to provide them.

Once again, I would like to thank you for taking the time to write to us.  We want our customers to be happy with everything they buy from us.  Your views on this matter are much appreciated.

Kind regards

Natalie Sweeney
Customer Manager
18th September 2008


 

Natalie Sweeney
Customer Manager
Sainsbury's Supermarkets Ltd
 

Re: WEST BANK labelling, your reply dated 16.09.2008

Dear Ms Sweeney,

We thank you for being honest and up-front in accepting that the products in question are sourced from Israeli settlements in the West-Bank (i.e. Occupied Territories).  Indeed this is our main point; under international (and UK) law, it is both legally and morally wrong to benefit from an illegal occupation at the expense of the occupied.

Although you may well be adhering to DEFRA and EU labelling by specifying the geographic origin, and sometimes the name of the Israeli settlement, you are knowingly breaking the Geneva Convention on profits from illegal occupation.

In our first letter we did not asking you to boycott products, instead we are asking you to adhere to your own stated principles as well as national and international law.  We are completely in favour of your policy not to dictate to customers what they should buy and again we are not asking you to take sides in a political dispute.
The differentiation you refer to is not ‘clear’ as without providing further clarification that the goods are from Israeli settlements, customers, both ‘standard’ and ethical, are mislead because people associate the West Bank with the Palestinians.  The Palestinian Delegation in the UK confirms that,”the vast majority, and in fact very probably all produce that comes from the West Bank, comes from illegal Israeli settlements. Very little, if any, produce that comes from Palestinian farms makes it to supermarket shelves in the UK.” (Dec 2007 Manuel Hassassian)
 Indeed some of the names given to places and products (e.g. Medjool) may be deliberately Arabic sounding to further confuse your customers.  Would Sainsbury’s offer its customers products from a country/region if they knew that child/slave labour was involved in their production?  How would you unambiguously label the products?    

Many thanks for your prompt and honest response.  We would appreciate your further response to the clarification we have provided to our initial query.  We naturally also hope that you would eventually provide alternatives to all Israeli products in line with your policy on giving the ethical customer a choice.

 

Yours sincerely,



-----Original Message-----
From: customerservice@sainsburys.co.uk [mailto:customerservice@sainsburys.co.uk]
Sent: Tuesday, September 16, 2008 5:22 PM
Subject: RE: WEST BANK labelling

 

Dear

I am sorry you are not happy with the origin of our medjool dates.  As a retailer we feel it is our duty to offer customers the products they want to buy.  In the past, we have received requests to boycott products from many countries and suppliers. 

We understand the issue of Israel and the Occupied Territories is a very sensitive one.  However, I am sure you will appreciate that we do not wish to take sides in political disputes.  We do not feel it is right for us to tell our customers what they should or should not buy.  This is why we work hard to ensure our products are labelled clearly and accurately.  This enables our customers to make an informed decision. 

We are committed to fair and ethical trading with all our suppliers, regardless of where they are based.  We adhere to DEFRA regulations about the labelling of produce grown in the Occupied Territories.  We also source only from those suppliers who follow DEFRA’s guidelines.  We use West Bank in our labelling as it is a legitimate legal term used to describe that area.  It is also in line with both DEFRA and European Commission guidelines.

Our suppliers conform to the European Commission import guidance of November 2001.  This makes sure that products coming from Israel and Israeli settlements are clearly differentiated. 

Once again, I would like to thank you for taking the time to write to us.  I appreciate you giving us the chance to explain our position in this matter.

Kind regards

Natalie Sweeney
Customer Manager



Sept 9th

Dear Sainsbury’s Newton Abbot,

We are regular shoppers at your store and value the effort you have put in to providing fair-trade and organic products. We also appreciate your commitment to “clear and transparent labelling” as stated on your website.

We would therefore like to draw your attention to the MEDJOUL dates currently on sale in the store (both organic and Taste the Difference) carrying the label “WEST BANK”. This labelling is neither clear nor transparent for consumers.
These dates are from illegal Israeli settlements in occupied territory in the West Bank.  Consumers buying these products believe that they are supporting the Palestinian economy while in fact they are supporting the economy of these illegal settlements. By stocking these products you are aslo contravening EU and DEFRA labelling regulations.
Secondly you are linking Sainsbury’s good name with illegal occupation activity which clearly contravenes international laws, including the Geneva Convention and UN resolutions.

Kim Howells the Minister responsible for relations with Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has stated that it “is essential to [ensure] that customers can make an informed choice between Palestinian produce and produce from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law”.

Your website states, “communication and transparency are key to our supplier relationships.” In this case, as with other products labelled West Bank and Israel, your suppliers are not being transparent. The illegal settlement of territory gained by war and the subsequent use of this land to grow and export produce is a deliberate attempt to normalise Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land.

 As a shopper and as a citizen who cares about human rights I would like to ask you to investigate your sourcing of these dates and other Israeli products, and to withdraw them from your store.

We would welcome the chance to discuss this important issue with you in person.

 

Yours sincerely