December 20, 2010

Who’s in Charge of Kashrus?

It seems that in today’s web of blogs and instant text alerts, almost anyone can question the kashrus of an item, often severely cutting into sales of a brand and even casting aspersions on the kashrus of a product. Passover appears to be a particularly fertile period for such alarms that can almost instantly put a brand out of business. This Passover was no exception as questions were raised about a plant manufacturing pure cocoa in China and potato chips in New Jersey. In each case, the alerts were not issued by responsible kashrus agencies but rather by individuals, who almost seem to be in waiting with sniper fire at the slightest hint of imperfection, real or imagined. As soon as suspicion is interpreted as fact, it becomes Breaking News on the blogs and the comments range from condemnation of the entire kashrus world to outright sarcasm, including one who had a field day about a burning ceremony in Williamsburg of the cocoa along with wigs from India. This cynical treatment of something as serious as kashrus is to say the least very disturbing.

It would seem that there is a responsible way of dealing with “smoke” in the crowded theater of kashrus. Individuals who suspect a problem should turn to the kashrus agencies who supervise the products to investigate the source and the nature of the violation. It is impossible to accept the premise of some of the comments on the blogs that these agencies are suspect and that a cover-up is not beyond the realm of reason. After all, the agencies are doing a yeomen’s job in certifying tens of thousands of products, for Passover and year-round. I tend to feel that this has earned them the right to be treated with respect, even by the blogs who rush to out-scoop the other blogs. We simply cannot accept a system that any Lone Ranger can cause enormous losses to a company and possibly damage its reputation for good. Wishes for a kosher Pesach next year should include the behavior of those who seem to include mistruths, half truths and sarcasm as part of the Yom Tov fun. I hope that most fair-minded kosher consumers will see through these malicious “alarm bells” that in the end have no basis in fact or in Jewish law (halacha).