Monday, August 10, 2009

Poor logic or outright deception?

In this week's Kosher Today there is an awful article named New Challenge to Kosher Law as Fraud Increases. In it the author repeatedly equates trademark violation and consumer fraud with non-Orthodox interpretations of the kashrut laws. One example:

New York…Avi G, a New Yorker vacationing in Ft. Lauderdale, found an ice cream cup at a local convenience store with an unclear kosher symbol. “It was either an OU or OV, but either way it didn’t look right,” he told KosherToday. Avi ultimately found out that the ice cream was using an unauthorized symbol. Pfizer recently filed suit against Marco Hi-Tech for allegedly selling it a kosher ingredient with a fraudulent letter from the Orthodox Union. The two are but a small sample of growing fraud and other misrepresentation of kosher that are creating angst amongst many kosher consumers.

Successful challenges against laws protecting kosher consumers have in the words of kosher experts left the growing base of kosher consumers extremely vulnerable. Kashrus agencies say that they have been forced to spend significant amounts of money to protect their symbols from fraud. These concerns are not shared by a Georgian Conservative rabbi and the ACLU who filed suit against the State for defining kosher as meeting “orthodox Hebrew religious rules and requirements.” Rabbi Shalom Lewis claims he cannot fulfill his rabbinical duties “because his theological interpretation of the state’s kosher laws differs from that of Orthodox Judaism.” He said he “violates state law” when he approves some foods as kosher that are not kosher under Orthodox definitions.” The laws have been on the books since 1980.

Rabbi Lewis wants to be able to say that a restaurant he supervises is kosher even though they use non-heckshered cheese. This is a completely different issue from fraudulently printing an OU on unsupervised foods. The NJ and NY kosher laws cover this case adequately - any restaurant certified by Rabbi Lewis would have to disclose that he is not an Orthodox rabbi, and that he doesn't require hecksherim on his cheese.

I suspect the author of the article genuinely doesn't see the difference. As far as he is concerned, a restaurant that serves unheckshered cheese is a treif restaurant, period. But this logic has no end to it. Lubavitch chassidim insist that chalav stam is treif - they do not accept Rav Feinstein's ruling even b'deivad. Should all restaurants that serve chalav stam not be allowed to call themselves kosher? Many chassidic groups don't consider stam shechita to be acceptable. Should a restaurant that serves Empire chicken be called treif?

The role of the secular government is to prevent consumer fraud without ruling on religious disputes. Someone who puts the OU on a product without actually being under the supervision of the OU is clearly committing fraud. No special laws whatsoever are needed - it would be like selling Del Monte Pineapple while being in no away affiliated with Del Monte.


Anonymous said...

IANAL, and a minor nit, using the OU symbol illegally I believe is a *trademark* violation, not a copyright violation.

Larry Lennhoff said...

Correct, and fixed. Thanks.

Dan - Israeli Uncensored News said...

I even saw Izzy's kosher bagels in California working on Shabbat