Waitrose changing name of Kaffir lime leaves over links to apartheid-era racial slur

Waitrose changing name of Kaffir lime leaves over links to apartheid-era racial slur
The ingredient, popular in Southeast Asian cooking, will be renamed Makrut lime leaves

Waitrose will change the name of its Cooks’ Ingredients Kaffir lime leaves over links to a racial slur used in South Africa during apartheid.

The ingredient will feature new packaging with the name Makrut lime leaves. Waitrose said the change is being made “in response to customer comments we’ve received”.

The word ‘Kaffir’ is an ethnic slur used to refer to black Africans in South Africa, and was used widely during the apartheid era. Use of the word is prohibited by law in the country.

In 2014, the Supreme Court of Appeal in South Africa stated in a judgement that the word is “racially abusive and offensive”. adding: “In our racist past it was used to hurt, humiliate, denigrate and dehumanise Africans.

“This obnoxious word caused untold sorrow and pain to the feelings and dignity of the African people of this country.”

As recently as 2018, a woman was jailed in South Africa for using the word to abuse a black policeman.

How the popular citrus fruit, which is native to Sri Lanka and also known as Makrut, came to be named Kaffir is uncertain. The lime and its leaves are used widely in Southeast Asia.

Kaffir limes, also known as Makrut limes, are native to Sri Lanka and found all over Southeast Asia

One theory is that the lime was named through the Kaffirs, an ethnic group in Sri Lanka. It is believed the fruit was introduced in the west by Scottish botanist HF Macmillan, who lived in Sri Lanka for 30 years in the late 1800s.

However, a number of chefs and food writers in the UK, the US and Australia have chosen to use the name Makrut to avoid causing offence.

Waitrose’s new packaging for the dried lime leaves will be rolled out to all shops and its website by early 2022.

The supermarket also pledged to explain the change in name through on-shelf labelling, recipe cards and in its Cookery Schools.

Helena Dennis, Waitrose grocery trading manager, said: “This name change is a crucial step in recognising how important it is for us to listen to customers and educate ourselves when it comes to the language we use.

“While some of our customers may be unaware of the connotations of this particular word, it’s important to us that we avoid offending anyone who shops with us. It is changes like this that ensure we are moving forward.

“We need industry-wide support on this, and encourage other retailers to do the same in order to make a difference on a widespread, national scale.”

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