Jordan dates proven safe, but producers fear ‘rumors’

dates jordan
In this undated photo, a man can be seen buying dates. (Photo: JNews)
AMMAN — An official probe into rumors claiming that a dates shipment bound for the UK found that the allegations are groundless, but local producers fear a “long lasting effect” on the reputation of their crop. اضافة اعلان

The rumors surfaced after Sainsbury’s, the second largest supermarket chain in the United Kingdom, issued a statement last week to warn consumers of Medjool dates being contaminated with Hepatitis A, which causes liver infections.

The Jordanian government took samples from the different dates exporters to test for Hepatitis A. The investigations, which were carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture at German and British labs, found that Jordanian dates are completely free of any type of contamination. 

Minister of Agriculture, Khaled Hneifat, told Jordan News in an interview that the rumors are over. He added that the dates imported by Sainsbury’s come from four different countries, so Sainsbury’s statement was not specific to Jordan.

According to Hneifat, the rumors would have no negative effect on local production, especially since the tests disproved them. But activists and producers beg to differ.

Musa Saket, founder of the Made in Jordan Campaign, believes that the rumors “harm the Jordanian product.” In an interview with Jordan News, he called for Jordanian media to counter those claims through highlighting the truth.

The campaign aims to promote Jordanian production across various industries. Such rumors, according to Saket, disrupt the mission of strengthening consumers’ trust in the local product.

Even though Jordanian dates proved to be safe, Sainsbury’s withdrew the entire product line from the market as the British government asked to put date imports from all four sources on hold.

Saket believes Jordan to be an excellent producer of dates, citing that “this has never happened before.” He added that “Jordanian products have official certificates that ensure their high quality.” The health regulations implemented in Jordanian farms include Food Safety Management by International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and Hazard AnalysisCritical Control Point (HACCP).

Anwar Haddad, the president of Jordan Dates Association, stressed that the contamination issue is not from Jordan and that all local products are tested before exportation. Nonetheless, the rumors have a negative impact on local production, according to Haddad.

“Our farms and operations adhere to the highest standards of quality and they have global certifications. Our workers also get medical tests on a regular basis. The Jordan Food and Drug Administration supervises the producers and any violation results in closing the farm immediately,” he said.

Haddad also added that Jordan has been exporting dates to 15 different countries for the past two decades with no issues or complaints, citing that “this contamination has not been seen in Jordan or in any of the other 15 countries we export to.”

Both Saket and Haddad suggested that the rumor could be caused by malicious intent from competing countries.

“There seems to be a pattern of spreading misinformation about local production, which targets the agricultural sector in particular,” Haddad told Jordan News.

Iyad Idwan, a dates farmer, believes that the issue became a game of politics as the two major producers of dates, especially Medjool, are Jordan and Israel.

“It is all false information. And I think this is happening because we surpassed them in production and quality,” he charged in an interview with Jordan News.

The farmer continued to express his concerns regarding the situation, saying that “British and European markets are one of the biggest markets open for us and it drastically multiplied our production.”

He added that “The situation during the pandemic is already very difficult and this makes it even harder. With these rumors, even if they are proven wrong, consumers will begin to avoid our products. So, this is very worrying and we need the government to reassure people that Jordanian produce is completely safe and healthy.”

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