Israeli Ketchup Wars: Heinz Can’t Call it ‘Ketchup’ Anymore


Israel’s Health Minister has ordered Heinz tomato ketchup to be rebranded. From now on, the product is to be known in the country as ‘tomato seasoning’, because its tomato content has reportedly been proven to be too low to be considered ketchup.

Indeed, this new ruling comes after Israeli food manufacturer Osem, which reportedly produces most of the ketchup consumed in the country, launched a lobbying campaign against Heinz.

In a letter, Osem recounted how it tested the product in a “leading European external laboratory”, to find that the sauce contains 21% tomato concentrate. Israeli food standards state that to be considered a ketchup, a sauce has to contain 41% tomato concentrate.

The company that distributes Heinz in Israel, Diplomat, quickly refuted the claims, telling Israel news site Ynet:“Obviously, Osem, which has a monopoly, would be happy if it were only possible to sell their product in Israel, but Osem’s claims have no substance.”

It is said that ketchup was never intended to be a tomato sauce. The term derives from the Hokkien Chinese word, kê-tsiap, which is a fermented fish brine, or sauce. Apparently, 17th century British and Dutch sailors came across kê-tsiap in China, and attempted to make it themselves at home, using ingredients such as oysters, mushrooms, walnuts and anchovies.

The first known published tomato ketchup recipe did not exist until 1812. Indeed, Philadelphia scientist and horticulturalist James Mease in 1812 observed that “love apples” (the then-trendy term for tomatoes) make for “a fine catsup”.


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Rebecca Loeb

Rebecca is a graduate in English Literature, with both a B.A. and M.A. in the subject. She enjoys writing on issues in modern culture, particularly about controversial political situations and artistic endeavours in emerging market countries.

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