The Montgomery County Environmental Protection Deparment is warning people who have bought Rokeach catsup, a kosher product imported from Israel, to avoid using it pending laboratory tests.

Frances Abrams, head of the agency, said she issued the warning after receiving a complaint from a woman who had opened a new bottle of the catsup. "The bottle didn't break," said Abrams. "it popped open like a champagne bottle and a good deal of it (the catsup) went all over the place. That mean's it's producing gas."

"We don't want everyone to panic." Abrams said. "There has been no illness connected to this catsup. We just recommend that people not use it until we can determine what caused the incident and how much of the catsup was affected."

She said the bottle of catsup was taken yesterday to state laboratories in Baltimore for testing and that results could be available in a few days.

"There are probably a number of natural causes that could have made the catsup spurt out," said Abrams. "It could have fermented and produced a harmless fungus or mold."

The Shalom Strictly Kosher Meats and Delicatessen in Wheaton, where the catsup was purchased, removed the remaining bottles of the product from its shelves Monday, according to manager Shaul Rafael. Rafael said customers returning new bottles will get refunds.

"This is not the store's fault," said Abrams. "The problem is in the packaging." Rokeach catsup is sold in kosher markets all over Montgomery County, according to an agency official.