December 20, 2010

An Unnecessary “Kosher” Certification

It has become fairly common to see two or more kosher certifications on products, primarily to increase the size of the market to include those that have more trust in the added certification. This is particularly true for Chasidic Jews who tend to rely on “Chasidic” certifications. In reality, in most cases, there are no changes made to either the ingredients or the production process. In a sense, the secondary certification merely confirms the integrity of the kashrus worthiness of the product. It has been proven to increase sales for many products.

Not so is the case with the pending Magen Tzedek symbol, which is being introduced by Rabbi Morris Allen, a Conservative rabbi from Minneapolis. The new symbol which is designed to confirm that a kosher product is also produced in accordance with ethical standards developed by the group is not expected to gain any traction with either kosher manufacturers or consumers. During the heat of the Rubashkin scandal, the outcry by the group did not cause any reduction in sales of Agriprocessor products. In fact in a survey of 25 retail establishments in 12 states just weeks after a government raid on the Postville IA plant, none of the stores even reported any complaints that the products were carried by the store. The criteria for all categories of kosher consumers were then what it always is: price, quality and kashrus.

It is not clear who the group is targeting since most of the nation’s kosher products are produced by giant food producers who certainly meet the tests of the Magen Tzedek standards. That would potentially leave only the smaller kosher producing companies who are unlikely to assume the burden of a new tax by Conservative rabbis. In promoting his new symbol, Rabbi Allen took a nasty swipe at kashrus agencies who have responsibly contributed mightily to the growth of kosher. He told the Forward: “This is a serious religious undertaking to help restore a culture of kashrus in America. “ This is one certification that is certifiably DOA, as it should be when it tries to usurp the traditional role of kashrus supervision and the oversight of government on labor, health, and animal welfare.