April 13, 2011
McCormick stopping spice sales to Iran
Spice giant McCormick has agreed to stop selling its spices to Iran, following the efforts of a Baltimore Jewish activist.
Jay Bernstein, an attorney and community activist, read in The New York Times article last December that despite sanctions against Iran, the U.S. Treasury was still allocating licenses to American companies to conduct business with the Islamic Republic. One of those companies, he learned, was the Baltimore-based McCormick & Co., founded in 1889 by a Jewish immigrant.
“It seemed that what we could do is draw attention to McCormick and get them to reconsider,” Bernstein said.
In January, Bernstein wrote to Freeman Hrabowski III, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and a McCormick board member, asking that he “exert” his influence on McCormick to “do the right thing and end all business dealings with and in Iran.”
Shortly after, he received word that McCormick would “cease such sales as long as Iran is subject to the comprehensive sanctions programs imposed by the U.S. government.”
Jim Lynn, McCormick’s director of corporate communications, told the Baltimore Jewish Times that McCormick distributes its spices to some 100 countries. But he said the company could not get assurances by certain parties that the products would not be sold by companies connected in some ways to companies that had been blacklisted, so McCormick decided not to sell in Iran.
“Is it going to bring down a regime? No,” Bernstein said. “But McCormick showed a great example of corporate responsibility. And if more companies did what they are doing, the regime in Iran would feel more pressure. It’s gratifying that they were responsive.”