Thursday, August 31, 2006


Gelatin Scandal

There are products with the problematic gelatin which are labeled to warn customers. This should have had been done by the Elite-Strauss company.

Class-action called for in alleged Elite-Strauss kashrut violation

By Anat Roeh

A woman and her daughter petitioned the Tel Aviv District Court Monday to recognize a suit they were filing against Elite-Strauss and the Israeli Chief Rabbinate as a class action. The two, residents of Givat Shmuel, keep kosher.

The grounds for the suit are a claim that some of the company's products - including Milki and Daniella dairy desserts and Ski whipped cream cheese - contain imported gelatin produced from beef bones. According to this claim, the animals from which the gelatin was produced were not certified as kosher.

However, the Chief Rabbinate had marked the products in question as kosher.

The plaintiffs, Tova Nagler and her daughter Revital Nagler Mann, who are from Givat Shmuel, keep kosher. They have asked that their suit represent anyone in Israel who keeps kosher and purchased or consumed these products between 1999 and 2004.

According to the suit, prepared by attorneys Keren Tagar and Chaim Stanger, the plaintiffs are religious women whose beliefs forbid them from eating products that are not kosher under Jewish law or that are not approved as kosher by the Israeli rabbinate. The two women claim that during the years in question they purchased and consumed products that were marked as kosher under the supervision of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate.

The suit alleges that during the period in question, however, the aforementioned products contained gelatin produced from beef bones from animals that had not been certified as kosher, such that, Elite-Strauss and the Chief Rabbinate misled the public.

A Strauss Dairies spokesman told TheMarker that the company had not yet received the court papers, but would respond accordingly when their contents had been studied.

I don't know the background to this case, but my understanding is that the rabbinate of some Israeli cities permit gelatin from animal bones as long as the bones are clean, based on the premise that gelatin is davar chadash. If this is true, the question is, is it the rabbinate's responsibility to alert consumers to any controversial positions that they may take, or is it the consumers' responsibility to investigate these matters before deciding whether to rely on the rabbinate's hekhsher?
I think, like with kitniyot, which is now clearly labeled here, whoever gives a hechsher must warn or people won't trust them, and they'll lose even more.
I think it's a little bit different from kitniyot, actually. With kitniyot, it is widely accepted that Ashkenazim observe the chumrah and Sephardim don't. Pretty much everyone agrees that products with kitniyot can be perfectly kosher for Passover as far as Sephardim are concerned, so the warnings are just there to altert Ashkenazim.

This, on the other hand, is a matter of divergent halachic opinion. According to some people, the gelatin isn't kosher at all for anyone, while according to others it may be perfectly fine. There are generally ways to find out what a rabbi or organization's policies are on matters like this, but the consumer usually has to take the initiative. Do you think that the mashgiach has a legal or moral obligation to publically announce all potential points of disagreement?
Yes I do, and it's in his own best interest. If it's discovered, as in this case, his entire range of foods will be considered problematic and people who are very strick won't eat foods he gives hechshar on. that will cause food businesses not to hire him and so on...
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