Canada: Toronto-made Campbell’s soups has U.S. conservatives simmering

Jayme Poisson Staff Reporter,

Conservative American bloggers and activists are simmering over products coming out of Campbell’s Toronto soup plant.

And not in a delicious way.

The maker of that Mmm Mmm Good household staple, and subject of Andy Warhol fame, has suddenly found itself taking heat from groups like

At issue is a line of 15 halal soups made in Etobicoke, available in certain Canadian markets and certified by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).

The vegetarian soups — which include favourites like cream of mushroom and tomato — have been made in accordance with Islamic dietary laws, meaning strict adherence to ingredients.

“We want to make our products relevant and accessible to every consumer possible where soup is consumed,” Campbell spokesman John Faulkner said from the company’s New Jersey headquarters.

All soups come with a special label from ISNA Canada, an offshoot of the American organization. The society has been certifying halal products across the country since 1988.

So what’s the problem exactly?

While the soup has been quietly sitting on Canadian supermarket shelves for the past 10 months, U.S.-based conservative bloggers like Pamela Geller, who runs a widely read site called Atlas Shrugs, got wind only recently.

Others have followed suit.

Geller — who started the group “Stop Islamization of America” and has recently led the charge against the building of a mosque and community centre near ground zero in Manhattan — says ISNA has connections to terrorist groups like Hamas and fundamentalist political movements like the Muslim Brotherhood.

And she’s called for a boycott of Campbell’s products.

“No one is suggesting they not have halal food. I’m not against halal food any more than I’m against kosher food. My issue is who’s doing the certifying,” Geller told the Washington Post earlier this week.

She did not answer a Star request for an interview Tuesday.

In 2007, ISNA was named as an “unindictable co-conspirator” by U.S. prosecutors in a case against a charitable organization that allegedly funneled money to Hamas.

The organization has denied any ties to Hamas, a listed terrorist organization in Canada. It has also specifically condemned religious extremism.

Muhammad Haroon, a spokesman for ISNA Canada, reiterated: “We don’t have any links to any of these kinds of organizations.”

Since its creation Oct. 5, a Facebook group called “Boycott Campbell Soup” had garnered just over 4,000 “likes” as of Tuesday, not to mention offensive images such as a Campbell’s soup can adorned with a logo displaying a machine gun.

The soup giant is standing behind the ISNA Canada halal certification, in turn giving the organization its stamp of approval.

“We did our due diligence at the time we certified and we’ve subsequently asked additional questions,” said Faulkner. “We’re confident that there’s no truth to the accusations.”

According to Campbell Canada spokeswoman Melanie Rockliff, using ISNA came at the recommendation of other companies which also carry their halal certification, like packaged meat producer Maple Lodge Farms.

Faulkner said the backlash from the blogosphere hasn’t affected the bottom line and that the company will continue producing halal products in its Toronto plant for Canadian consumers.

He noted there is a sizeable Muslim population in Toronto and Montreal, a market the company wanted to tap into.

Campbell’s has no plan to launch a similar line in the U.S. any time soon. The decision, Faulkner said, has nothing to do with any controversy, simply “other marketing priorities.”