April 27, 2021

Tragic Death of 23-Year-Old Woman in Kosher Restaurant Could Have Been Avoided with Mashgiach, US Rabbis Say

Tel Aviv…Osher Deri, the 23-year-old woman with a milk allergy who died in a kosher restaurant could have been saved had the restaurant had a “mashgiach” (kosher supervisor), leading US kashrus officials say. The woman, who was allergic to dairy died after she was served dairy whipped cream at a kosher meat restaurant in northern Israel. Police opened an investigation into the incident, shut down the restaurant in the town of Rosh Pina and detained five employees, including the owner and the chef, on suspicion of negligent homicide. The incident happened when a kitchen employee realized that they ran out of the whipped cream purchasing the fatal dairy product at a nearby store.

“Had there been a mashgiach at the restaurant, he would have checked anything that is brought into the restaurant which is the mashgiach’s job,” said Rabbi Moshe Elefant, COO of the Orthodox Union. “It speaks volumes for the need for a mashgiach in a kosher restaurant,” agreed Rabbi Sholem Fishbane, the Executive Director of the Association of Kashrus Organizations (AKO). The Chief Rabbinate and local Rabbinical Councils in Israel do not necessarily require a mashgiach in many of its restaurants, relying instead on periodic inspections. In the US, most agencies make it mandatory for full-time mashgichim to be present when the kitchens are open save for some restaurants owned by observant Jews. One rabbi who insisted on anonymity said: “I worry about an Orthodox owner who has no mashgiach and is busy with 50 routine tasks setting up the possibility of something falling between the cracks.”  In Israel, there were many calls for the Rabbinate to review its policies regarding allowing its kosher certified restaurants to operate without mashgichim.

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