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March 29, 2013

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PAGE 16A By Jared Sichel Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles It contains pure cane sugar, is chametz-free, may taste better than the year-round beverage--and, is effectively off-limits in the state of California. While the story of kosher for Passover Coca-Cola may not be as riveting as God unleashing swarms of locust on the Egyptians or splitting the Red Sea, it's one that, par- ticularly for Jews in California, could rival at least some of the slower portions of the Passover Haggadah. Why on these eight days does the soda taste different than on all other days? Cane sugar. In its year-round formula, Coca-Cola uses high-fructose corn syrup, for sweetness. But for Ashkenazim--Jews of Eastern European de- scent--corn and corn-based products are forbidden during Passover. To satisfy the sweet tooth of Jews who strictly observe Passover, Coca-Cola HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MARCH 29, 2013 Coca-Cola has kosher for Passover . predicament in California substituted cane sugar for- unintended negative conse- corn syrup. For many, a yellow-capped Coke on Passover--instead of the traditional red--is as strong a tradition as matzah pizza and macaroons. It is perhaps the soda most associ- ated by Jews with the holiday. But one major problem stands -in the way of tradition these days--California state law. The Passover version of the popular soft drink has been, since 2011, effectively outlawed in the Golden State, but shoppers can still find it in some stores that acquire it from other states. The culprit? A chemical whose name sounds like something out of a 1980s science fiction thriller: 4-Me- thylimidazole, or 4-MEI.. An ingredient in regu- lar Coca-Cola, 4-MEI is a chemical byprodct naturally formed during the heating and browning process in some foods, like caramel. A change in state law required some sort of warning or, for Coke, a change in its normal formula, something that had quences in its ability to create a Passover version. The problem is that 4-MEI is "known to the state to cause cancer," according to the state's Office of Environ- Mental Health Hazard As- sessment's (OEHHA) website. If 100,000 people consume at least 29 micrograms of 4-MEI per day for 70 years, one of them will get cancer from the exposure, OEHHA spokesperson Colleen Flan- nery wrote in an emaii. That 1 in 100,000 chance exceeds the state's "safe harbor limit," making it one of nearly 800 chemicals singled out by the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986- also known as Proposition 65. If you've ever peered around a gas station while filling up or let your eyes wander while waiting in line at a Starbucks, you may have noticed a sign or label with a"Proposition 65 WARNING." When a chemical appears on the Prop. 65 list, the law states that businesses that sell products containing more than a certain amount must provide a clear and vis- ible warning to the consumer or risk penalties that reach up to $2,500 perviolation per day. Just this month, a Cali- fornia citizen filed lawsuits against several companies "for failure to warn about exposures to 4-MEI contained in imitation maple flavor and caramel coloring," according to Lynda Gledhili, press sec- retary for California Attorney General Kamala Harris. Gled- hill wrote in'an email that soft drink companies have yet to face any Prop. 65 lawsuits. How much of a real threat the chemical poses has been disputed. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) disagreed with California's classification of 4-MEI as a carcinogen. FDA spokesman Douglas Karas wrote in a statement last year that to consume the amount of 4-MEI that was linked to cancer in mice, one would "have to consume well over a thousand cans of soda a day." Michael Jacobson, execu- tive director for the Washing- ton, D.C., Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), however, called the FDA's statement "malarkey." "The more you consume, the greater the risk," he told the Journal. CSPI, since its formation in 1971, has advocated for stronger government policies and has pressured the FDA to take stricter positions on cara- mel coloring. Jacobson was happy to see 4-MEI added to the Prop. 65 list in California because it prompted Coke to use a caramel with lower doses of 4-MEI. When 4-MEI was added to Prop. 65's list in January 2011, the company had one year to comply with the law. So, in 2012, it tweaked parts of its closely held formula, modi- fying its caramel by, in part, reducing the levels of 4-MEI. But the change didn't come without a price. It ap- pears to have made the drink unacceptable for Passover in another way, and more altera- tions were necessary to make the drink seder-worthy. Last April, the Pasadena Star-News reported that Coca-Cola spokesman Bob Phillips anticipated Passover Coke being available in 2013. Butwhen the Journal contact- ed Coca-Cola several weeks ago, spokeswoman Michele McKillip wrote in an email that the company is stiU test- ing its new Passover formula for "shelf life." "Ingredients may be sourced differently or manu- facturing processes may be different for kosher for Passover products," McKil- lip wrote. "The new process caramel has not been used before in kosher for Passover products." In theory, Coca-Cola could revert to its old Passover for- mula, but it would then have to make sure that consumers were warned before every purchase, perhaps evenvith a warning label ' every bottle. Coca-Cola, McKillip wrote, hopes to be able to provide a Passover version in 2014. Jared Sichel is a staff writer for The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, from which this article was re- printed by permission. On Hezbollah terrorist group's designation, will Peres's plea move the EU? "Cyprus recently arrested a Hezbollah terrorist plan- ning a terror attack," he said. asked Dr. Magnus Norell, adjunct scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and Senior Policy Advisor at the European Foundation for Democracy (EFD) in Brus- sels, what he thought of the speech and whether it would have an impact on EU policy. "Well, it was a forceful speech.., but he wasn't re- ally saying anything new, or anything Israelis haven't said many times before. I don't think that speeeh, in and of itself, will change any minds in the EU," Norell told Indeed, despite its in- volvement in terrorism within their borders, many EU states have been reluc- tant to designate the Hezbol- lah terrorist group as such, despite strong pressure from Israel and the U.S. "We know what Israel knows: Hezbollah is a ter- rorist organization. Period," Vice President Joe Biden told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in early March. "And we--and me--we are urging every nation in the world that we deal with--and we deal with them all--to start treat- ing Hezbollah as such and naming them as a terrorist organization," Biden said. EU leaders, however, do not yet seem to be noved. "There is no automatic listing just because you have been behind a terrorist at- tack. It's not only the legal requirement that you have to take into consideration, it's also a political assessment of the context and the tim- ing," said Gilles de Kerchove, the EU's counter-terrorism coordinator, in a recent statement. In light of the EU's stance, asked Dr. Norell about what type of network Hezbollah operates in Eu- rope. "Historically, [it's] mostly networks of propaganda and funding. But the terror-side has been there all the time, even if it took some time for Europe to catch on (today the Europol database des- ignates Hezbollah as a ter- rorist organization)," Norell said. "But since, it's become more and more involved in crime-ventures, like drug-running and criminal networks, has become more common." One of the biggest casual- ties of the'ELs unwilling- ness to confront Hezbollah is Lebanon itself. "Left unmolested, Hez- bollah not only undermines Lebanon's security, institu- tions, and political system, but is also set track to com- promise its foreign relations, ruin its financial system, and destroy whatever re- mains of its social cohesion," wrote Tony Badran, research fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, in NOW Lebanon. While developing its own "state within a state" framework over the past few decades, the Hezbollah terrorist organization has also simultaneously gained control over the Lebanese government. In 2005, it as- sassinated one of its chief political opponents, Sunni Prime Minister Rafiq al- Hariri, according to a United Nations tribunal that inves- tigated the case. ' Since then, Hezbollah has largely subdued the Sunni opposition led by Rafiq's son, Saad Hariri, in Lebanon through coercion and fears over the militia's strength. In 2011, a Hezbollah-backed candidate, Najib Mikati, from the pro-Hezbollah "March 8 alliance," became By Sean Savage With the civil war raging in Syria and Iran's contin- ued pursuit of its suspected nuclear weapons program, the Hezbollah terrorist group stands as a bridge to those growing threats fac- ing Israel. The Lebanese-based Shi'a terror organization has become one of the most powerful paramilitary or- ganizations in the Middle East. Amid an international effort to stem Hezbollah's influence and operations, the European Union (EU) continues to pose an ob- stacle to" the unity of that effort through its refusal to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. Recently, Israeli President Shimon Peres, in a historic speech, addressed the EU Parliament over the issue of the Hezbollah terrorist "group. During his speech, the first given by an Israeli head of state to the EU in nearly three decades, Peres took the opportunity to confront EU lawmakers about the growing threat Hezbollah poses for regional and global stability. "Recently, 20 terror at- tempts by Hezbollah were counted all over the world, in India, Thailand Georgia, South Africa, the U.S., Egypt and Greece, among others," Peres said March 12. Peres also reiterated Hez- bollah's growing role in EU territory. "Last month, the govern- ment of Bulgaria, a member of this European Union, reported that it had identi- fied that the [July 2012] terror attack in Burgas, was carried out by Hezbollah. Five Israeli tourists and one Bulgarian citizen lost their lives," Peres said. Yossi Zeliger/FLASH90. On July 19, 2012, a man injured in the prior day's terrorist bombing which killed five Israelis and their bus driver in Burgas, Bulgaria, is tended to by Israeli emergency response professionals. An investigation by Bulgaria implicated the Hezbollah terrorist organization in last summer's attack. prime minister, consolidat- ing Hezbollah's control over the Lebanese government. Many EU governments have shown reluctance to confront Hezbollah's terror- ism as a result of Hezbollah's political control and its significant influence over Lebanese society through its various schools, hospitals and charities, largely due to generous Iranian funding. "The EU tends to overlook the terrorist- and criminal sides of Hezbollah because it's also involved in social issues and is a political party. But it also fears trig- gering conflicts back home. Remember Europe had a string of Hezbollah- insti- gated attacks and murders in the 1990's and early in the 21st centurY," Norell told Despite fears of reprisals, leading EU states such as France have been willing to risk attacks by extremists in other instances, such as confronting al-Qaeda linked groups in Mali. asked Dr. Norell about how France has con- fronted Islamists in its former colony in Mali in Africa, compared with its unwillingness to confront Hezbollah in Lebanon, another former French protectorate. "It's a valid point, to some extent. But the French rela- tions with Mali (and former colonies in North Africa) are very different from that with Lebanon. Again, the 'don't rock the boat'-notion in regards to Lebanon, easily trumps any other concerns. The French are well aware of the role Hezbollah plays in Lebanon, but--so far at least--that's not been enough to change the policy. If the French did, however, it would have wide repercus- sions in the EU as a whole. On matters concerning the Levant, the EU tends to defer to France," Norell said. At the same time, by becoming the dominant force in Lebanese politics, many EU governments fear being cut out of Lebanon completely. "I should add here that another reason I've heard several times for the 'non- designation' of Hezbollah is that it will make it much difficult to talk to Hezbollah. The subtext to that argument is that by talking (persuad- ing) to Hezbollah, it's pos- sible to make them change. It's a stupid argument if you ask me, but I think it tells you a lot about the thinking here when dealing with organiza- tions such as Hezbollah," Norell told - Without EU support, it is difficult for the U.S. and Is- rael to form a strong interna- tional consensus to weaken the terror organization. "I'm afraid appeasement is still alive and kicking in many corners of the EU," Norell concluded.