A Tesco branch in London wishes Muslims 'Ramadan Mubarak!' with a special display of 'Smokey Bacon' potato chips; Twitter, media storm ensues.

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You have to pity the well-meaning grocery stores and their employees who think that they are thoughtfully embracing the holiday celebrations of religious minorities, then end up setting themselves up to be the target of Internet ridicule, sometimes for years.


This week’s victim of political correctness gone awry was a London branch of the Tesco food store chain, which put up a special Ramadan display for Pringle’s potato chips complete with a crescent moon wishing shoppers a “Ramadan Mubarak!,” among other special deals offered to Muslims during their holiday.


The problem was that the flavor of chips stacked in the display was “Smokey Bacon” – clearly by a clerk who was unaware that Muslims do not eat pork on holidays, or any other day of the year.


A Twitterstorm ensued after a sharp-eyed shopper spotted and photographed the display, and the story was soon splashed across the British press and, thanks to Buzzfeed, around the world.


Some Muslims were offended, but more seemed amused. Pringles issued a statement clarifying that it didn’t intend for the bacon flavor to sit on that display. Tesco apologized for the mix-up in a statement: “We are proud to offer a wide range of meals and products to meet the needs of our customers during Ramadan. We recognize these Pringles weren’t in the most suitable place and our store colleagues have now moved them.”


The irony is that the advertised Pringles don’t even contain pork – they are merely pork flavored, meaning that devout Muslims (or Jews and vegetarians) can technically consume them without violating their dietary restrictions.


Tesco, the largest supermarket chain in Britain, has Jewish roots: it was founded in 1919 by a Polish Jew named Jack Cohen. The stores have, in the past, been the focus of controversy regarding boycotts of Israeli products. In 2009, pro-Israel groups criticized the chain for setting up a special helpline at its customer service phone line to field complaints about stocking items from Israel. In 2013, protesters from the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement placed yellow stickers on Israeli products in the chain’s stores in Ireland.


Then, last August, a demonstration against the sale of Israeli products during the Gaza conflict at a Tesco in Birmingham turned destructive, when group of protesters, holding Palestinian flags, entered the store and started chanting, calling out to shoppers, and pushing over piles of food products.


The whole “Smokey Bacon” affair is reminiscent of a similar scandal involving photographs of various hams with signs proclaiming them “Delicious for Hanukkah!” The pictures were taken in 2007 in New York City, but they somehow manage to make their way around the Internet every year when the Jewish holiday rolls around, with claims they were spotted recently in stores around the country. The pictures were taken at the New York gourmet grocery Balducci’s by a novelist named Nancy Kay Shapiro who posted them on her blog, laughing at the store’s “well-meaning cluelessness.”


The hams, unlike the bacon chips, were of course actually not kosher for Hanukkah – or for non-pork eating Jews, no matter what time of the year it is.

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