People of a certain age may remember back to a time when Brazil nuts were blithely called "n*gger toes." Now, or at least until recently, there was a lime that had a similar racial and religious slur in its name.
The Seattle Times recently reported that two local produce suppliers have taken action against the racial and religious slur of "kaffir" by removing it from product labels when referring to the specific lime leaves.
Both PCC Natural Markets in Washington and Organically Grown Company in Oregon and Washington have eliminated the word and are just referring to the leaves as "lime leaves." A campaign on Twitter, @KaffirNoMore, is encouraging people to call them "makrut leaves," the lesser known name. The leaves are commonly used in Southeast Asian, namely Thai, and Indian cuisines.
According to a Vancouver Sun reporter, Mia Stainsby and @KaffirNoMore, kaffir is a powerful and offensive racial slur in South Africa. The word is also a religious slur in the Muslim language, referring to a non-believer of God or Allah, restaurateur Meeru Dhalwala told the Times. Dhalwala's father grew up in the area of India that is present-day Pakistan.
The Bay Area's Andronico's Community Markets' director of produce and floral, Chad Solari, says that the markets "recently became aware of this issue" have taken the same action as the Washingtonian and Oregonian produce suppliers. They've changed the product's name from "kaffir lime leaves" to "organic lime leaves."
"We have changed the item description in all our systems, and we'll implore all our suppliers to do the same," Solari says in an email.
Jamie Faletti, one of the owners of Falletti Foods, tells SF Weekly that they have omitted the slur, referring to their products as just "lime leaves."
Although Bi-Rite Market does not currently carry the limes, Jessie Rodgers of the store's public relations department says they did not know about the negative connotations associated with "kaffir" but plan on removing it from their system.
"We definitely plan to discontinue using the term when we promote the limes or their leaves in our markets," Rogers says. " We are not currently carrying them, but will be certain to use either the alternate name, makrut, or refer to them generically as limes, when we begin carrying them again."
PCC has also removed the word from deli and online recipes.
What's most surprising in this whole controversy is that the issue hasn't been addressed -- and remedied -- before now. The fact that the slur is primarily known in South Africa and Muslim countries is no excuse. As PCC food writer Jill Lightner wrote in an email to the Times, "This issue here isn't remotely complicated: hate speech doesn't belong in the produce department." Hear hear.