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Shofar FTP Archive File: orgs/american//heinz/kosher

      Heinz Canada trims kosher product line
      Special to The Canadian Jewish News

      Kosher shoppers were shocked recently to discover that Heinz Canada 
has removed kosher certification from all but a handful of its products.
      According to company spokesperson Anna Relyea, the move stemmed from a 
desire to "keep costs down while continuing to provide kosher products to 
our customers."
      COR officials say consumer response indicates the decision may have 
been a mistake, one which they say Heinz may reverse in the foreseeable 
      Only a few Heinz products remain under supervision, including ketchup, 
infant cereal and tomato juice.
      Items that are no longer kosher include staples such as tomato sauces 
and paste, vinegar and mustard.
      Heinz jarred baby foods are also no longer kosher, and Heinz - as the 
federal Competition Bureau noted three years ago when it investigated the 
company for anti-competitive practices in the sector - is the sole supplier 
of jarred baby food in Canada.
      As a result, many parents will be forced to buy more expensive 
imported kosher baby foods, such as Beech-Nut. (Heinz "Pablum" dry baby 
foods remain kosher.)
      The decertification decision follows a deal last year between Heinz 
Canada's parent company in the United States and Del Monte that saw Del 
Monte acquire a number of leading Heinz brands, including Starkist tuna. But 
"the Del Monte deal has nothing to do with thisS decision," Relyea said.
      "This was done after a lot of careful consideration," she said. "Only 
when there were no other options available did we decide to remove the 
      In the 1920s, Heinz products in the United States were the first to 
carry national kosher certification under the "OU" hechsher, which still 
certifies many American-made Heinz products.
      Heinz Canada has also discontinued supervision on all domestic beans, 
including those formerly manufactured under the Libby's label. Libby's was 
acquired by Heinz Canada in 1996, and at that time, the changeover did not 
compromise the longstanding certification of products, including the 
vegetarian Deep Browned Beans variety.
      Products were cut from the kosher line based on a variety of factors, 
Relyea said, including "how complex the manufacturing is, what the savings 
were and so on."
      The size of a product category was also a major factor, she said. "For 
example, in the case of ketchup, [the category] is huge, so maintaining 
kosher made sense."
      Ending the certification on beans was more of a logistics issue, given 
the complexity of producing a product with pork and a kosher vegetarian 
product at the same time.
      Rabbi Mordechai Levin, COR's executive director, said there are 
"definite problems there. They're making kosher and non-kosher products on 
the same equipment."
      Based in Toronto, Heinz Canada is one of 40 worldwide subsidiaries of 
its U.S. parent. It employs 2,000 full-time salaried and hourly employees 
and more than 500 seasonal staff.
      Relyea called the Canadian marketplace a "very competitive retail 
trade environment," one that keeps the company "under continual pressure to 
keep costs down to remain competitive."
      However, she was unable to substantiate company claims that the move 
will save money.
      In 1991, a Heinz spokesperson, quoted in an Anti-Defamation League 
document arguing against claims that kosher supervision "taxes" non-Jewish 
consumers, said the per item cost [of supervision] is "so small we can't 
even calculate it," and that kosher labelling actually makes products less 
costly by increasing the market for them.
      Relyea says the de-listing hasn't affected any Heinz products in the 
United States.
      "I want to reassure people that [for] the products that are currently 
kosher American products, this decision doesn't affect them at allS there's 
a whole range of beans available that remain kosher in the U.S., because 
it's a much larger market."
      Regarding consumer feedback, Relyea said, "we've done as much as we 
can to retain the kosher designation where possible." She downplayed the 
change, saying "it's a small percentage [of products] that were 
      Rabbi Levin said Heinz simply "didn't do their homework very well. 
Consumers are complaining that there are no baked beans, or that other 
products that they're accustomed to using aren't available any more."
      The move has caused confusion in the Jewish community, he said, and 
rumours have been circulating that the products are still under COR 
certification, but packaged without the kosher symbol.
      Rabbi Levin said there is no truth to the rumour. "We don't endorse 
anything without the COR on the label, especially something that sensitiveS 
only products bearing the COR label are acceptable."
      He said he is optimistic some Canadian Heinz products may become 
kosher again soon.
      "We've asked Heinz to revisit [the decision]," he said.
      Relyea said she is unaware of efforts that might have been made to 
find alternatives to de-certifying and wouldn't comment on possible future 
      Meanwhile, COR is asking consumers to continue contacting Heinz to 
express their concerns.
      "Hopefully," said Rabbi Levin, "we can get some of the products back 
on line."


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