June 11, 2012

The Product is Kosher but is the Package?

Imagine a product that is certified kosher with the symbol of a leading kashrus agency on the front of the package, but which offers a recipe that mixes dairy and meat, a no-no in kosher law. Think of a product that has all sorts of meat and poultry names, but is actually marked DE, indicating that the product was produced on dairy equipment.

The product, of course, does not even have a trace of meat; it was only meant to suggest that it enhances a meat dish. In speaking to several leading kashrus officials, I found that they were not at all surprised at what appears to fail the old-fashioned smell test of kashrus. They say that products that sell to the mass market often have such questionable recipes.

One official told me: “We will in most cases flag the recipe or whatever else on the package that doesn’t fit from a kashrus point of view, but they have to know that a serious kashrus consumer will be offended.” So what I am hearing is that so long as the integrity of the kashrus of the product is not compromised, most kashrus officials will not pull the hekhser, particularly if the offender is a large national brand.

But I am still not quite comfortable with the idea that a kosher symbol can appear on a package that includes a recipe that is not kosher. I would at least hope that there would be a disclaimer that while the product is kosher certified, the recipe is not and that kosher consumers should consult a rabbi. 

Sure, I understand that a mass marketed product cannot quite have so much verbiage about kosher, but I am thinking of an innocent consumer who may not be quite as knowledgeable about the nuances of kosher. And then there is the question, should kashrus agencies have to approve what is on the package as well, but I’ll leave that for another time.