Aug 1, 2013

court says Kashrut agency not responsible for deception it did not discover

A class-action suit against Israeli food company Williger hs been dismissed.

The regional court in Haifa dismissed a lawsuit against Williger regarding the kashrut of canned mushrooms imported from China that contained remnants of bugs and worms. Judge Yitzchak Cohen determined that the producer in China is at fault for what happened, having worked behind the back of the mashgiach.

The lawsuit surrounded a series of cans that contained the authorization of "Hamechon lMitzvos Hatluyos Baaretz", headed by Rav Shneur Zalman Revach, and a series of cans authorized by the kashrut of the Badatz Machzikei HaDas along with the approval of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.

In 2004 Zeev Becher filed a lawsuit against Williger. He said he purchased the containers of mushrooms relying on the kashrut authorization listed on the labels. A short while after the mushrooms were put into distribution around Israel, a number of containers were discovered to contain remnants of bugs and worms - the Rabbanut then withdrew its authorization saying the product is not kosher.

It seems that Williger continued to sell the product bearing the kashrut authorization, despite the Rabbanut having pulled its authorization. Becher claims that Williger deceived the consumer by doing do, and asked for reparations to the tune of 2000 NIS to compensate for the feeling of disgust, abhorrence, degradation and guilt..

Williger claims that the product was marketed after receiving all the necessary authorizations and had no intention to deceive anyone regarding the kashrut of the product.

The judge, Yitzchak Cohen, rejected the request to allow for a class-action suit. He determined that the foreign producer of the containers in question was the source of the problem, working behind the back of Rav Revach.  The judge said that the company was concerned it could not fulfill its obligations and sent some containers that were not kosher among the shipment of kosher containers, though the number of non-kosher ones were minimal relative to the size of the shipment - it could even be said there were just individual cans.

The court said that Rav Revach did all he could to ensure the kashrut of the product and should not be held responsible for the actions of the producer in China. As small as the problem was, it was not the fault of rav Revach or the other respondents.
(source: TakDin)

I would think that it is the mashgiachs job to prevent fraud and deception on behalfof the company, and discover it if it does happen. The fact that he was authorizing kosher products and they were deceiving him seems to me to be directly connected to him - he did not catch the fraud, meaning, he did not do his job well enough.

I get that he is just human, and not everything can always be discovered in a timely fashion, but to say that is not his job seems strange to me - I thought that is specifically the job of the mashgiach - to make sure the food is kosher and to make sure that the company is not deceiving the public and supplying it with non-kosher food. Kashrut organizations have systems in place to prevent fraud - hopefully they put on in after this incident in 2004 - because it is part of their job.

Will the mashgiach or agency never be held accountable when the company he is certifying hoodwinks him? What's the point of the mashgiach and kashrut agency if they have no responsibility to their job?

The producer in China really has ultimate responsibility for the deception (go sue the Chinese factory - see how far that gets you), but the kashrut agency should bear responsibility for the incident happening on its watch.

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1 comment:

  1. Guess what? The way kashrut works a some (many / most (?)) foreign exotic locations is perhaps a once a year visit. Since the product itself does not really have anything not kosher, the mashgiach is not full time, and everything depends on the occasional 'surprise' visit.


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