Smell and Taste Co Frutarom, A Notorious Polluter in Israel, Buys Large US Company

bad-smell-nose-plug-underwater-photo-bathAccording to a press release issued by the company, Israel’s Frutarom acquires the business of the American flavors company Flavors Specialty Inc. (FSI) in a deal worth $17.2 million. This is good news for the bleak economy. And for the food and beverage industry, we suppose. But the big question Green Prophet has is what is Frutarom doing to improve its stinky environmental record?

Time and time again, Frutarom in Israel is being targeted for severe odor nuisances. The Ministry of Environment here enforced a pollution charge just last month: In mid-February 2009, the Haifa Magistrates Court convicted Frutarom of causing severe odor nuisances, in violation of the Business Licensing Law and the Abatement of Nuisances Law.

Last month the company was held accountable for the mystery maple syrup smell wafting through the streets of Manhattan, especially in the Upper West Side. The smell was emanating from Frutarum’s New Jersey plant, investigators tracked down, and the maple smell was from fenugreek, used as a health supplement, and also in the Yemenite gooey dip called hilbe.

But not everyone likes waffles: A privately-held company situated in Haifa Bay, Frutarom produces raw materials and flavor and fragrance extracts for the food industry. Following a plea bargain agreement, the company was fined a million and a half shekels in Israel (about $350,000) and signed a financial obligation to refrain from a similar offense in the sum of 3 million shekels for three years, while one of its directors, who was found guilty without conviction, was sentenced to 120 hours of public service.

In addition, reports the Ministry, the plea bargain agreement calls on Frutarom to regulate all odor nuisances in its bounds and to plan and implement a program for the reduction of air pollution and odor nuisances, which will include compliance with best available technologies, implementation of leak detection and repair, and monitoring and sampling.

The company is expected to invest millions of shekels in the implementation of the program, and Green Prophet will be watching to see if the company keeps its word.

Environment odor pollution isn’t so trivial: Have you ever had a seat on an airplane, or bus, wedged between 2 women with very strong perfume? Or worked with someone who couldn’t tell the difference between wafting through a light spray of perfume and dousing it on their body? Some people are extremely sensitive to strong odors, even pleasant ones, causing them nausea, headaches and long-term health issues due to the stress of the smell.

Frutarom, apparently, is more interested in expanding its business before managing the social issues surrounding its plant in Israel: The Ministry says it brought an indictment against Frutarom in March 2008 following numerous complaints from residents of the area regarding odor nuisances from the plant.

The ministry’s investigations, including the dispatch of odor assessment teams to the plant, confirmed the findings. Odor assessment teams defined the odor originating in the plant as considerable and unreasonable, in contravention of section 3 of the Abatement of Nuisances Law, 1968. In addition, the plant did not comply with business licensing conditions which required it to install facilities for the prevention of odor nuisances.

Attorney Zohar Shekalim of the Ministry of Environmental Protection’s Legal Division expressed the hope that the conviction will bring to an end to the difficult odor nuisances from which residents of the area have suffered for years.

Meanwhile, Frutarom continues its “rapid growth strategy”: Ori Yehudai, President of Frutarom says: “This [new US] acquisition Reinforces Frutarom’s Presence in the US in the Flavors Field and Strengthens its Position as a Leading Global Flavors Producer and Supplier.”

Yehudai added, “Thanks to Frutarom’s proven experience in making acquisitions and in realizing the synergy and cross selling opportunities, we are convinced that this acquisition will contribute to Frutarom’s continued fast growth and profitability and will create high value for our customers, our employees and our investors.”

You can find Frutarom products at its plants in the United States, England, Switzerland, Germany, Israel, Denmark, China, and Turkey. We wonder, are investors with social interests –  and not just dollars in mind – aware that Frutarom has a tarnished environmental record in Israel? And would the company dare to pollute in Switzerland?

In the meantime, three cheers to Elite Coffee for turning an environmental smell complaint into a green success story. See how Elite is turning its coffee grinds into biofuel.

More on smells and the environment:
Frutarom Wafts Maple Syrup Smell Through Manhattan Streets
Frutarom Fined For Odor Nuisance in Haifa Bay
Stinky Coffee Nuisance Turned Into Biofuel

[image via Sara G]

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