The dairy Tara pulled out all stops in launching a new brand of hard cheeses called Noam this July, priding itself that none of the new cheeses contained preservatives. The brand launch pushed Tara's share of the market for hard cheeses to 11% from just a few percent beforehand. However, it appears that in recent months the company also did something else to its cheese products, removing the nutritional ingredients from its soft white cheeses and probiotics from the cottage cheese it produces, without informing consumers.
Probiotic bacteria were removed from the production process for Tara's cottage cheese and dietary fibers were removed from the dairy's white cheeses. The amount of protein in Tara's white cheeses also dropped 5% from 8.6 to 8.2 grams per 100 grams of cheese. However, the company did not notify consumers of the change, sufficing with removing probiotics and dietary fibers from the list of ingredients on the back of packaging.
The new amount of protein in the white cheeses only appeared on Tara’s website on Monday, after an inquiry made by the TheMarker. Similarly, a photo depicting a container of cottage cheese with a probiotic label was switched with a photo showing the new containers without probiotic on the label. The dietary fibers ingredient for white cheeses still has not been removed on Tara's website.
In response to TheMarker, Tara stated that the dietary fibers and probiotics were actually removed long ago, at the request of consumers. At the same time, Tara completely rejects that it changed the amount of protein in its cheeses or that it is planning to do so.
"The company checks from time to time what additives to include in its products, that is: calcium, vitamin D, dietary fibers and probiotics," the company responded. "In light of consumer demand, Tara continues to enrich (unlike some its competitors) its cheeses with calcium and vitamin D."
The removal of probiotics from Tara's cottage cheese particularly reduces the nutritional value of the product, while good bacteria aid proper digestions, says Michal Sukman, a clinical dietician at the Maccabi health maintenance organization. She adds that regularly eating cottage cheese with probiotics particularly improves the performance of the digestive system of people suffering from lactose intolerance. At the same time, she says the removal of dietary fibers and a 5% reduction in the amount of protein in white cheeses does not significantly affect their nutritional value.
However, the manner in which Tara failed to inform consumers has not escaped notice from watchdogs.
"A change in the ingredients of a food product necessitates informing consumers," says Zeev Friedman, legal counsel at the Israel Consumer Council. "There are quite a few consumers for whom the nutritional makeup of a product is critical. A change in a material detail could even be considered deception by omission [in marketing]."