Why This German Supermarket Emptied Their Shelves

August 25, 2017

You walk into your neighborhood supermarket—hungry, empty-handed—shopping for tonight’s dinner ingredients. Approaching the produce section, you notice something missing. In fact, you notice many things missing. The shelves are mostly empty. As are many of the freezers. What’s going on?

Shoppers at a grocery store in Hamburg, Germany, experienced something akin to an empty emporium this week. Edeka, a German supermarket chain, vacated one of their locations of all foreign products in a move to bring attention to anti-immigration politics.

Edeka’s stunt comes as a response to waxing tides of xenophobic rhetoric in German, and European, politics. By removing the ability to consume foreign goods, the supermarket is calling attention to what a Germany with intensely closed borders could look like. They’re highlighting the importance of not only respecting commodities from other places, but people from other places as well. In essence, how can you allow oils, spreads, and soaps from countries like Syria, but then bar the people who make them?

Germany is often scrutinized, both internally and externally, for their immigration policies. But Edeka has received a spectrum of feedback, including some positive recognition from members of the German government. A senior member of Merkel's party called the campaign a "wise move" while Marcus Pretzell, a member of the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party, countered: "Why exactly should it be wise? Is it not rather completely mad?" They plan to roll out the campaign to their other locations in the near future.

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What do you think of this supermarket choice? Make yourself heard in the comments.

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  • Maz
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  • melissa
Valerio is a freelance food writer, editor, researcher and cook. He grew up in his parent's Italian restaurants covered in pizza flour and drinking a Shirley Temple a day. Since, he's worked as a cheesemonger in New York City and a paella instructor in Barcelona. He now lives in Berlin, Germany where he's most likely to be found eating shawarma.


Maz August 27, 2017
The irony being that there are campaigns in many countries to ban Israeli goods and people. There was a regular pro-Palestinian anti-Israeli demonstration outside our town's Sodastream shop (which also sold bottled oils and had environmentally friendly selling practices - as in you took in your containers for detergent, etc.) because of Sodastream being an Israeli company. The shop closed in the end and the protestors deemed it a success. Just horrible. About 8 people lost their jobs.
melissa August 28, 2017
It's unlikely that the particular demonstration you reference (you don't say where -- Brighton?) was due to Sodastream "being an Israeli company," but rather because Sodastream is an Israeli company **that was manufacturing in occupied West Bank settlements.** I verified this via the Wiki entry on Sodastream, which has myriad citations on why people were boycotting.
Maz August 28, 2017
And employs a lot of Arab Israelis. Israel is a secular country, the only democracy in the Middle East, with a 20 per cent Arab population. Street signs are written in Hebrew, Arabic and English. If you can feel/think you can simplify the whole Middle Eastern issues into searching a Wiki entry, Melissa, God help us.
Maz August 28, 2017
Maz August 28, 2017
Maz August 28, 2017
I hope Melissa will stand by her feels and not be using Google or Apple products from here on in.
melissa August 28, 2017
what does any of that have to do with the fact that you are glossing over an important fact? i purposely referenced the Wiki entry because it contained HUNDREDS of citations that contested your assertion, Maz. and god help **US** "If you can feel/think you can simplify the whole Middle Eastern issues into" "pro-Palestinian anti-Israeli demonstration" "because of Sodastream being an Israeli company." You realize that I wrote in to add nuance to YOUR comment, right? LOL.
melissa August 28, 2017
i used a wiki page that had hundreds of citations precisely in order to avoid having to link to something stupid like Maz did,
melissa August 28, 2017
it's ironic that i amended your comment to add in facts about the reasons for boycott and you accuse me of "stand[ing] by [my] feels."
Maz August 29, 2017
I wasn't glossing over it. The whole point of the original article was demonstrating what food shelves would look like if goods from countries from which refugees come were 'banned'. I said it was ironic that there is such a movement (mostly fermented (no pun intended) in academic institutions by an organisation called Hamas, "a Palestinian Sunni-Islamic fundamentalist organization" which not only opposes Israel, but opposed Palestinian politicians, e.g. Yasser Arafat because he and others attempted to create solutions in the Middle East e.g. through Camp David talks. With his death, a political vacuum was created and since the early '90s Hamas had been exploiting academics and intimidating academic institutions into banning Israeli visitors and speakers, as well as siding with terrorists and so on). My point originally was that if you do what was said in the article, then maybe some thought needs to go into the 'irony' of this all considered. Or do I need to spell that out for you too? Since this a foodie site, here are some interesting links regarding agriculture and viticulture in Israel.
morgan August 26, 2017
I don't think Food52 should be restricted from politics surrounding food, it would be another thing if they went off on an unrelated tangent.
I found this an interesting snipit of news that I probably wouldn't have heard of other wise. I think it's important to remind people how wide we cast the food net to sustain the way of life we have come to expect.
delbor August 26, 2017
I believe food52 should stay away from political commentary.
ErinM724 August 25, 2017
I'd be curious to see how the same thing would look in an American supermarket.
AntoniaJames August 25, 2017
My guess is that, certainly for grocery shelf items (packaged goods), and meat and dairy, it would not be nearly as dramatic. In parts of the country, at certain times of the year, the produce section would have a lot of empty space, given the growth of Mexico imports.
If they removed all food items that contained sugar and products derived from sugar, or any product with HFCS, now that would be interesting. I'm wondering if you could do that just by editing pano images with a tool like Photoshop . . . . ;o)
ErinM724 August 25, 2017
I think you're probably right. I was thinking if anything, we'd see the hit in produce, not so much the middle of the store stuff. But that's kind of why I'd want someone to do it....just to see!
Matt August 26, 2017
It would be shocking because of things that we don't even think about being either grown or processed overseas. During the winter a lot of fruit that requires long day hours are grown in South America (California is warm, but the daylight isn't long enough). There'd be little to no fish (processed in China). No coffee, tea, sugar. Other foods made from commodities like wheat (flour) are traded internationally and stock can come from Canada.