State Forcing Manufacturers to Clearly Mark Price-controlled Products

Stores must clearly direct shoppers to these goods, rules Knesset committee.

Manufacturers will have to start marking products whose prices are controlled by government, to help shoppers identify them among costlier alternatives.

But don't expect to see a difference in stores overnight. The Knesset Economic Affairs Committee that made the decision this week is giving manufacturers six months to prepare, on the grounds that some have packaging inventory to last months and that altering it, or throwing it away, would cause them losses.

Tnuva milk
Moti Kimche

Food products whose prices are controlled by government are standard bread, so-called "white" bread, challah, salt and certain dairy products - 1% and 3% fat milk sold in cartons and plastic bags, yogurt-like 3% fat Eshel and 3% fat Gil, 15% fat sour cream, 100 grams of unsalted butter, Gilboa and Emek 28% fat yellow cheese, and eggs.

The Economic Affairs Committee, chaired by MK Carmel Shama-Hacohen, also ruled that stores must put up signs marking price-controlled products. Consumers have often complained that these items, which are cheaper than competing goods, are often all but concealed - placed on inconveniently low shelves, for example.

The new regulation was sponsored by Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Shalom Simhon, who directly connected it to last summer's cost-of-living protests.

"People have no idea which products are under supervision," said Hanna Weinstock Tiri, legal counsel to the Consumer Protection Authority at the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry. "As a consumer I didn't know either." With the products clearly marked there is a chance that people could lower their living costs, she said.

On the other hand, Ronen Regev Cabir of watchdog organization Public Trust feels that just a sign in the store won't do the trick. The products themselves need to be marked, he urged during the Knesset discussion. The committee tended to agree with him, hence the decision that manufacturers must mark all products, though as said they have been given a breather to prepare.

The only one present at the discussion who opposed the concept was a representative of the Manufacturers Association of Israel, Zvi Goldstein.

Stores were given 60 days to put up signs clearly showing where price-controlled products are. The ruling applies not only to supermarkets but to neighborhood groceries as well. The signs must state "Price controlled by government" and cite the price of the given product.

The rule will also apply to retailers' websites, the committee ruled.

The basic decision is that all packaging must bear the price-control mark, in a font of at least 12 points. Again Goldstein objected, saying the labels would be too big and wouldn't suit present forms of packaging.

Much of the discussion on Monday centered on how to mark specific products, such as unpackaged, standard bread and price-controlled yellow cheese sold over supermarket deli counters.