The four major Swedish food chains Axfood, Coop, ICA and Bergendahls/City Gross have signed a letter of intent with the Swedish Western Sahara support network VästsaharaAktionen, outlining their stance vis-à-vis produce imports from Western Sahara.
“The imports from Western Sahara gained wider attention in Sweden in 2010”, says Sören Lindh of VästsaharaAktionen. Back then, a documentary on Swedish national TV revealed that many of the popular omega 3 tablets contained fish oil that originated in occupied Western Sahara. As a result, most of the products were banned by Swedish health stores and supermarkets, until it was assured that the products did not contain Western Sahara fish oil.
But it is not just the omega 3 products which are tainted by the occupation. Other products that are likely to have their origins in Western Sahara have been found in Swedish stores, labelled as being from Morocco, yet packaged in the Netherlands or France.
Axfood, Coop, ICA and Bergendahls / City Gross are concerned about the risks of violating international law through buying and selling such goods and find the unclear declaration of origins on e.g. tomatoes and fish products from Morocco problematic.
The four chains have now, after their talks with VästsaharaAktionen, released the following declaration of intent; “We find it inconsistent with our ethical commitments to buy and resell raw materials and products from occupied Western Sahara. This position is in accordance with international law, and we wish to make our stance clear to our consumers, retailers, buyers and other intermediaries in our supply chain. A formal indication of origin, such as “produced in Western Sahara”, that would positively identify the unwanted goods, is still lacking today. This puts additional demands onto us to pay due attention to identify and avoid products coming from Western Sahara all throughout the supply chain. We shall use precaution in cases of insufficient or incorrect labelling, and try to avoid elements of different origins, which could include products from Western Sahara.”
“The food chains’ commitment provides a basis for constructive cooperation to limit and prevent trafficking of Saharawi goods in violation of international law”, says Lindh. “The initiative will be well received by the Saharawi people, who own the resources of the land, but do not benefit from this trade.”
For information: Soren Lindh, Coordinator, VästsaharaAktionen 070-399 2769 Read also WSRW’s “Label and liability”, identifying the tomato route to Europe and Sweden, and imports and sales in Sweden in recent years.
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