Fish Importer Sues Kolbotek for NIS 25 Million

Fish importer FDAN Investments has slapped a NIS 25 million libel suit against the investigative consumer affairs television show Kolbotek and others. The others include the Channel 2 broadcast company Reshet, Kolbotek's production company "Olam Hasport," and the show's editor, Moshe Katz.

The grounds for the claim are a Kolbotek show aired in January, which claimed among other things that frozen fish imported to Israel contain more than the permissible amount of water, which increases their weight. Shoppers pay for fish by weight, and were therefore getting less fish for their money than they thought, the show implied. Also, Kolbotek claimed phosphates were being added to the fish.

The broadcast proved highly popular, and topped Reshet's ratings that week, at nearly 21%.

FDAN Investments (formerly known as Williger Ltd.) claims that the broadcast damaged it so badly that it had to stop importing fish altogether. The worst harm, it claims, was caused by the fact that among the specific products mentioned in the show was Delidag brand fish, sold by Neto, which had been FDAN's biggest customer.

In January, consequent to the broadcast, Neto terminated its relations with FDAN, the latter says.

In 2009, FDAN's sales to Neto amounted to NIS 141 million, it says. FDAN calculates its lost future profits at NIS 60 million.

Kolbotek ostensibly showed the process of phosphates being added to fish in a Chinese plant. FDAN argues that it's a lie, and that neither water nor phosphates were added to its products. The importer also has claims against Kolbotek's conduct before and after the broadcast.

Among other things, FDAN says that even though Delidag's people told Moshe Katz, the editor of the show, that it doesn't import fish, just sells them, Kolbotek never asked FDAN - the actual importer - for a response.

Rafi Ginat, the power behind Kolbotek, said that the lawsuit reached the press before it reached Kolbotek, and he hasn't seen it yet. The investigation into the addition of water and phosphates to imported fish was one of the best the show has done this year, Ginat said. "We are very proud of that investigation and stand firmly behind all its findings," he stated. "We will not have a problem to prove in court what we proved in the show."

Reshet also said it hasn't received the claim yet.

Why would anybody want to add phosphates to frozen fish, anyway? The answer lies in preserving the quality of the fish's flesh. Among other things it helps prevent the formation of ice crystals that would ruin the texture. Another function is to help prevent rancidity.