Heinz “what’s-it-called?” — Another contretemps?

As reported in The Times of Israel, the Israel Health Ministry recently declared that Heinz ketchup can no longer be called “ketchup” in Hebrew in Israel, because its percentage of tomato solids was found to be below the Israeli standard. The ruling was made in light of a review of results of independent tests organized by Osem, the dominant ketchup seller in Israel. As a result of the Health Ministry ruling, Heinz is to be classified as “tomato seasoning,” not “ketchup.” Presumably, faithful consumers of the Heinz product will still be able to buy it, regardless of what it is called. Meanwhile, Diplomat, the company that imports the Heinz product, is petitioning the Health Ministry.

Will this seemingly bureaucratic decision remain a purely commercial affair or will the Israeli decision deepen the diplomatic rupture between the U.S. and Israel? Will U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry take this personally? After all, Kerry’s wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, is the heiress to the Heinz Ketchup fortune. Will Kerry see Prime Minister Netanyahu’s hand in this? If only Ehud Barak were still in the cabinet, we might soon hear that Netanyahu pushed this change. Will Netanyahu try to defuse the situation by being photographed squirting Heinz “tomato seasoning” onto a burger bun? Will we hear claims that another secret agreement was negotiated in Vienna whereby Iran undertook to classify the Heinz product as “ketchup” and to actively promote its sale in Iran?

I apologize to readers of this blog for making light of this situation. However, we know how fraught the U.S.-Israel relationship has become over the Iran agreement and the oft-reported personal antipathy between US administration and Netanyahu government officials, so anything is possible. Given the many serious concessions made to Iran in that agreement, and the continuing belligerence of Iran’s rulers towards both Israel and the U.S., there are very real reasons to be concerned about the possibility of war. So, a bit of lightness is meant to distract us from these real worries. One can also hope that, regardless of the outcome of the votes in Congress, both U.S. and Israeli government officials will “hold the sauce” and work to restore a more constructive tone to the vital relationship between the two countries.

About the Author
Lewis Rosen is a retired economist who has lived in Jerusalem for more than 35 years. Born and educated in the US, he worked for the Office of Economic Opportunity for two years in Washington D.C. and was on the economics faculty of York University in Toronto, Canada for 13 years. In Israel he has been involved in a wide range of business planning and economic analysis projects.