LONDON – Tesco, the UK’s largest food retailer, has strongly rejected claims that the Gaza crisis is forcing it to stop selling Israeli produce and products, saying that in the case of Israeli dates packaged under its own label it had decided to stop selling them in September “for commercial reasons.”
According to the grocery chain, the dates are grown in Israel but packaged in the West Bank.
“It is clearly marked as “West Bank (Israeli settlement produce)” so customers are fully aware of what they are buying,” a spokesman told The Jerusalem Post. “As part of our regular review of our range, we will not be selling this product for much longer.”
The spokesman said that in line with the recent request from the British government on “origin of food” labeling, the dates have to be marked and sold as such, and as Tesco customers have been asking for such information, the company has to supply it.
Nevertheless, he emphasized that the decision had nothing to do with Gaza and that any report to the contrary was “erroneous.”
“Like all major UK retailers we sell some products that are sourced from Israel,” he said.
“We do this in line with the government position on trade with Israel, and we mark all products clearly with the country of origin so customers can make informed choices about what to buy.”
The spokesman said Tesco had “no plans to change our sourcing arrangements, which are in line with other retailers and in accordance with the Government’s position.”
Explaining the background to its decision, Tesco confirmed it had received questions from customers about products from Israel or the West Bank.
“To make sure we answered their questions with the most accurate and up to date information, we contacted suppliers to double-check our own information, particularly for branded products,” the chain said.
As to whether just the suppliers of kosher products had been approached or whether the company had sought similar information from other suppliers, the spokesman told the Post that while it had not asked all its suppliers, many had been requested to indicate the country of origin of their products.
He declined to name any examples of those approached.
2013’s figures for the Tesco chain of 2,500 stores showed a £3.3 billion profit.