Baking Swiss Treats Amid Acid Debate

January 26, 2010

Author: John Tagliabue

Source: The New York Times

Bertram Decker’s second-floor office in Nestlé’s big food plant here looks out over the town’s only minaret, a wooden turret topped with a gilt star and crescent.

The minaret, atop a Turkish cultural association, is one of only four in all of Switzerland, and it has a special place in the country’s recent history. It touched off a local scrap that in November led more than 57 percent of Swiss voters to approve a call for a constitutional amendment to ban minarets.

Here in Wangen, 61 percent approved the measure, which is a little curious, since Mr. Decker’s factory produces, among other things, packages of feuilleté, or puff pastry, that adhere to Islam’s ritual halal requirements.

Last year, the factory’s assembly lines churned out 100 million packages of pastry, up from 80 million a decade ago. Though halal products represent at most 3 percent of the total, Mr. Decker said, “We see now that it’s growing.”