Frying pan company Neoflam smacks TV show with libel law suit
There was consumer chaos a few months ago in Israel when a local investigative report TV show Kolbotek, not unlike 60 Minutes in the US, tested ceramic frying pans and pots for potentially dangerous levels of toxic chemicals like cadmium and lead. The report was scathing. According to the show’s report several new companies on the market did not make the grade. Even though the interior surfaces of the pots and pans were clear, questionable amounts of toxins on the colorful outer surfaces could potentially leak into the food, especially if they were scratched, the report said.
One company Neoflam, based in Korea was singled out and as soon as the report was issued, local sales collapsed. The marketing manager for Neoflam Oren Hamama emailed Green Prophet hoping to set the record straight. He says that Neoflam’s products do pass all international standards testing bodies, and in response to the Kolbotek report Neoflam is suing the Israeli TV show for about NIS 5 million (about $1.5 million USD).
Oren wrote this email to me on April 2 saying:
“Maybe you can update your readers that Neoflam put a law suit against Kolbotek for miss leading [sic] the public.”
The local media picked up on the impending law suit. According to Haaretz Neoflam is suing Kolbotek for libel after claiming that contrary to being “healthy” and “green” as their marketing implies, the pans and pots contain hazardous materials. A class action suit of NIS 55 was also filed against Kolbotek, the paper reports.
I have asked Neoflam, which does business around the globe, for a private interview or statement in English, but as of yet, Hamama only directs me to previously published articles or general statements issued to the Hebrew press. He’s based in Australia, and according to the website the headquarters are in Korea.
The company’s CEO Rafi Zeroya, also with an Israeli name, stated the following: “It can’t be that a television show publicizes misleading information that could trigger panic, waving about tests done at an unauthorized lab that were conducted in contravention of accepted standards,” in response to the show.
“Kolbotek,” hosted by Rafi Ginat, said there is no dispute that the Neoflam utensils tested were found to have large amounts of cadmium and lead in their interior and exterior coatings, which are prohibited by Health Ministry regulations at all restaurants and businesses that sell food.
“As said on the show, any scratch in the ceramic coating can cause these toxic substances to leach into the food,” it said. “Kolbotek” also presented wares made by other companies that do not have toxic metals in their ceramic coatings, proving that things can be otherwise, it said: “Healthy and good is also possible.”
“Kolbotek” said it stands by its findings and “will expose the lies and distortions” brought in the lawsuit.
The jury is still out on who is right or wrong, but as consumer awareness picks up to greenwashing, and misleading products in the media (think meat glue, or pink slime), it’s just a matter of time that any company claiming to be green will come under public scrutiny. And this is a godo thing, but not if reports are based on misleading data.
A few years back I wrote an article about some potentially dangerous chemicals in Ecover products, a company that sells green cleaning products which I still use to this day. The company was very upset by my article, and said the amounts of 1,4-dioxane are negligible. My stance is this: any company that is selling a product (no matter how “green” it is) should be scrutinized. It is our job as the media to do this, and your job as the readers and public to put your money where green ethics align with good products. This way we can make our world better and healthier.
I’ll report any new news I see on Neoflam and the Kolbotek story.
Image of frying pan from Shutterstock