May 30, 2012

The Silent Pareve Lobby Strikes Again: This Time itÕs Chocolate Chips

NEW YORK -- It should come as no surprise that Trader Joe’s took it on the chin when it routinely switched its pareve (neutral to dairy and meat) chocolate chips to dairy. All they needed to do was ask Kraft who in 2003 acquired Stella D’Oro and found out that what it considered a “business decision” to change the popular cookie line from pareve to dairy would not be taken sitting down by kosher consumers. After a significant outcry by kosher consumers that made the pages of the New York Times, the company reversed its decision. The only difference is that social media has given the pareve lobby a new and powerful voice that instantly helped its case make it all the way to the front page of the Wall Street Journal, America’s largest newspaper. Rabbi Chaim Fogelman of the OK Kosher Certification, which certifies the Trader Joe’s Chocolate Chips, said that in addition to the thousands who voiced their displeasure through Facebook (4200 signatures, according to the WSJ), his agency continues to receive hundreds of complaints. Many of the disgruntled consumers cannot fathom using chocolate chips only with dairy and not with meat. They are hoping that like Stella D’Oro, Trader Joe’s will relent and again assure that the packaging of the chocolate chips is segregated from dairy products. According to Rabbi Fogelman, the manufacturing was not in question since it was produced by  an independent manufacturer who met the pareve requirements. At issue was the packaging agent used by Trade Joe’s who changed the protocol to use equipment that is also used for dairy.

Industry sources say that it is unlikely that Trader Joe’s will ignore the protests, citing the discounter’s major investment in kosher. The sources say that despite the existence of other pareve chocolate chips in the market, many avid bakers prefer the Trader’s Joe brand for both its quality and price. In many Facebook posts and on blogs, some of the protesters pointed to the underrepresentation of pareve in general. Kosher consumers are not the only ones to be disappointed when a brand like Trader Joe’s goes dairy. Millions of lactose intolerant are also impacted, and in fact, many are fully aware of the term pareve. This is not the only dairy issue the OK is dealing with. In recent months the coveted Snapple brand manufactured by Dr. Pepper had to change the designation on its canned beverages to dairy when it manufactured the canned beverages on equipment also manufacturing dairy products.  The Snapple 11.5 oz. cans are now labeled OK-DE. The probable reason for the muted response by kosher consumers is that with Snapple, at least there’s the bottles.