Vege spite spreads
Sunday Herald Sun, January 24, 2010 VEGEMITE has gone halal in a bid by food giant Kraft to make the national ‘‘treasure’’ available to Muslim Australians.
The label on Australia’s most famous spread has changed in recent months to include halal certification in a move some have described as ‘‘ridiculous’’ political correctness.
‘‘Islamic communities are proud Australians and they want to be able to eat our national icon as well,’’ Kraft spokesman Simon Talbot said.
‘‘We don’t own Vegemite. The people of Australia own Vegemite. We’re just the custodians and we want to make sure Vegemite is available for everyone.’’
Muslim leaders have congratulated Kraft for introducing the labels, but Family Council of Victoria secretary Bill Muehlenberg questioned the company’s motives.
‘‘This is a private company trying to make money,’’ Mr Muehlenberg said. ‘‘I don’t think they care a rip about offending the tastebuds of Muslims.
‘‘Why do we have to keep bending over backwards to please minority groups? There are only 300,000 Muslims in Australia out of 22 million people, which is a very small percentage.
‘‘Of course, there’s a case for making allowances for different cultures, but aren’t we getting a bit carried away with political correctness here? It’s ridiculous.’’
Mr Muehlenberg feared the halal l a b e l l i n g w a s a l s o a s i g n o f ‘‘Islamisation’’ of western countries.
‘‘We’re already seeing sharia law courts operating in Britain,’’ he said. ‘‘Where does it end?’’
Since the labels were changed in August, Kraft’s head office has received regular phone calls from people complaining about the halal labelling on Vegemite.
‘‘People have called us with some fairly strong views about Australian society and culture,’’ Mr Talbot said. ‘‘These are views that we at Kraft don’t agree with. We don’t engage in racist or bigoted commentary.
‘‘But for every call we receive asking about it, there is a call to say how proud they are to see it’s halal. We are also proud of our kosher, halal and vegetarian products.’’
Vegemite has been certified kosher for more than a decade. When Kraft decided to scrap kosher Vegemite production in 2004, the backlash from Jewish consumers forced the company to do a backflip.
Yasser Soliman, Islamic Council of Victoria past-president and executive director of Diversity Connect International, said the halal certification on Vegemite was a sign Muslims were ‘‘becoming more Aussie’’. Should Vegemite carry the halal stamp? Vote now at heraldsun.com.au
Divisive move: A Vegemite jar bearing the halal sticker (above) and (below) the sticker.