December 20, 2010

Kashrus Agencies Did Not Fail Consumers

In my last column I discussed complaints by mashgichim, including Robert Frank, an OU mashgiach at the Montifiore Medical Center, about working conditions and even the kashrus at the facilities they work in. The implication was that kashrus agencies may be turning a blind eye to these complaints. I received more than a dozen e-mails on the subject, which led me to do some additional research into the matter. It appears that kashrus was never compromised at Montefiore Medical Center. An inspection by the New York Kosher Law Enforcement Agency also found everything to be kosher.

I have frequently lamented that in an age of blogs, complaints are aired not before botei din but over uncontrolled media. The kashrus agencies seem to be taking sufficient precautions against any possible abuses of kashrus. In the case of Montefiore, the Orthodox Union has a team of mashgichim in place. The facility is inspected regularly by health officials. Yes, mashgichim are entitled to work in a clean and healthy environment, but so are all the people who work in the facility. From the e-mails I received, there appeared to be an incident here and there that on the surface seemed troubling, but in each case the kashrus agencies seemed to do their job and as far as health and safety is concerned, that is to be left to government agencies.

Perhaps this is the place to warn against yelling “fire” in a crowded theater, which is what happens when someone thinks he is blowing the whistle either for personal gains or because there may indeed have been an aberration and explanation. The “gotcha” approach without resorting to the proper channels can be more damaging than the alleged infraction itself.