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Sunday, August 1, 1999 Published at 15:24 GMT 16:24 UK


Coffee logo stirs racism row

A Gordon Highlander is depicted on the coffee label

Race equality groups have called for a Scottish coffee brand label to be changed because they consider it racist.

Camp Coffee, a drink brewed in Scotland since 1885 and known across the world, is on sale in Britain in major supermarkets.

But some Asian shopkeepers are refusing to stock the coffee because of its label.

It depicts a Sikh servant waiting on a kilted Scots soldier, who sits relaxed while sipping the brew.

But critics maintain that the colonial image is anachronistic and harks back to the last days of the Raj.

[ image: Racial equality groups find the logo offensive]
Racial equality groups find the logo offensive
Mukami McCrum, Director of Central Scotland Racial Equality Council complained that the coffee label delivered an offensive message and demanded the picture be scrapped.

She said: "This racist label is a trip back to the days of the Empire but people have moved on from this kind of thing.

"I find the label offensive in the way it portrays other cultures as being subservient to the white man.

"The makers of this product are putting out a message of servitude but they should be using a picture which gives out a message of equality," she continued.

"This label is on supermarket shelves but it belongs in a museum.

'Outdated' message

"I want them to change it. Young people going into supermarkets and seeing this on the shelves nowadays were not part of the Raj and will be getting an outdated message," she added.

Narem Sood, Secretary of the Scottish Asian Action Committee, branded the label "obscene" and vowed to contact the coffee manufacturers immediately to demand the label be updated.

He said: "Its obscene that this company wants to continue pushing the nostalgia of past Empire relationships today."

Alastair Christie, Chief Executive of Edinburgh and Lothian Race Equality Council said: "This label is in the same vein as the Little Black Sambo books, totally outmoded.

"A number of traditional product manufacturers want to show shoppers they have been around a long time, and Camp Coffee clearly falls into this category.

"But they don't realise that by selling the image today, they make it today's image," he added.

Camp Coffee's marketing manager, Hugh Evans, refused to comment.

Camp Chicory and Coffee Essence has been on sale since 1885.

It is said to have originated when the Gordon Highlanders requested a coffee drink which could be brewed up easily by the army on field campaigns in India.

Its famous label once depicted the turbaned Sikh bearer serving a tray of drinks to a Gordon Highlander officer.

The tray was removed from the picture in an attempt to modernise the picture, but the Sikh remains waiting to attention while the Scottish soldier sips his coffee.

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