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Right of Reply – the kosher labelling submission

May 26, 2010 – 7:51 pm11 Comments

An array of kosher symbolsBy Peter Wertheim

The ECAJ/ORA submission does not purport to contain a complete proposal for an alternative system to the present regime of self-regulation. On the contrary, the final paragraph suggests that if a fair and workable regulatory system cannot be devised then “the Jewish community considers that it would be better served by maintaining the present self-regulating system”.

By definition, any regulatory regime will limit competition.  Even the present self-regulating system imposes such limits.  So I think it’s quite unfair to impute improper motives to those who are seeking to find a way to provide assurance to the Australian kosher consumer that a product labelled “kosher” is indeed kosher.  The present self-regulating system provides no such assurance.  Maybe self-regulation is the lesser of evils.  But if, in the future, a notorious case should occur in which a large number of kosher consumers have been duped by false labelling, and our community is unable to achieve a consensus on the details of a regulatory system to prevent a recurrence, Food Standards Australia may feel compelled to step in to fill the vacuum.  And I sincerely doubt that Galus Australis readers would be satisfied with the result.

Peter Wertheim is the Executive Director of ECAJ. You can read the submission here, and Rachel Sacks-Davis’ critique of the submission here.

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  • rachsd says:

    Those of you who don’t find this reply by Peter Wertheim satisfactory, might want to sign this petition

  • gedalia says:

    Thankfully I come from Perth where religion and politics don’t mix (they don’t need to because the quality of both is far below what we have come to expect from the eastern states).  

    My question is, why would the status quo not prevail into the future, and even if things did change, would “self regulation” in the form of Rabbinic guidance not serve to provide the necessary protection for the community as it also seems to do now, for both the right and wrong reasons?

    I will take a product into a home if I consider the hechsher applied to be suitable.  I can open my pantry and pull out products with a dozen different hashgachot, all of them entirely to my standard.  What is the problem with that?  I can also go to the supermarket and see products with a Rabbinic certification that I do not purchase because I do not hold the standard to be suitable to my level of observance.  That represents freedom of choice for the consumer.  Our market it one of caveat empter, buyer beware.  So it should be for kashrut – consumers can make an informed decision.

    It is dangerous territory for the Rabbinate to ask the Government to define anything for the Jewish community, be it kashrut, milah, who is a Jew.  That is because over time the position of Government regulation can change.   However the enduring status of halacha cannot (before you come back at me, yes the interpretation of that halacha can…..).  Far better that kashrut is a product of the community and not of statutory regulation.

  • Seraphya Berrin says:

    This is ridiculous.
    How often in Australia do we find products that claim to be kosher? Most products don’t have kashrut symbols on them, and are just listed in a book. Are we really worried that a marketer might say something is kosher? If that happened, the community would be very quickly informed of the lies without the need for government intervention.
    Are you really scared that Food Standards Australia will mandate what is kosher in the future if you don’t now? They are not concerned by such claims. Just look at how many times they pushed back requests for standards of vegetarian and other religious labeling.
    You mention the importance of “our community is unable to achieve a consensus on the details of a regulatory system”. What makes you think that it is important that we reach a consensus. 2 Jews, 3 opinions. People do or don’t follow the Eruv here in Melbourne. Around the world each person has different Kashrut organizations they do or do not trust. I do not think I should have the strictest strictures of “Kosher Australia” foisted upon me and I don’t think the community should be forced to follow these rabbis which they themselves don’t necessarily trust.
    I would think that that ORA would forced glatt and other “mehadrin” ideas that would drive up the price of kosher food making it less available. There is more than one way of keeping kosher, and ORA admits this. There are Halakhic disagreements between different supervising businesses in Australia. However they represent a very narrow band of the spectrum of what is acceptable, and they should not be allowed to legally dictate to Australia’s Jewish community what is acceptable to them.

  • The earlier link to the petition isn’t working, so here is a working link

  • frosh says:

    Slightly off topic…

    While I am against this move to involve the goverment with kashrut certification, I actually would not be against some sort of legislation with regard to labelling products vegetarian.

    The reason for this is that this is a more objective condition, whereas kashrut is far more open to interpretation.

  • ariel says:

    Here’s something interesting:
    I came across a take-home-and-heat-up Indian meal at Coles. There was a hechsher clearly emblazoned on the front of the box, but it was one I had never seen before.
    After “googling” the kashrut agency’s name, I discovered that it is essentially one rabbi in India supervising kashrut.
    As this happens often in Israel and the US and usually indicates less than satisfactory supervision, I was sceptical so I contacted the KA of NSW to ask their advice. After some time they told me that they had been in touch with some overseas kashrut agencies (I’m assuming their stamps appear in the picture at the top of this page) and had been advised that the Indian kashrut agency is not “accepted”.
    Now, as a wise man once said: “There’s no such thing as kosher, only varying degrees of treif.” And unless you shecht the cow yourself in the backyard, you never really know what’s going on behind the scenes. So, you do your best. But you need to know who is holding to your standards in order to make an informed decision.
    For example, it is useful to know that a number of the large US agencies don’t necessarily have the highest, most mehadrin kashrut standards. So if they don’t accept a particular hechsher, it’s probably not too reliable.

  • frosh says:

    Ariel, the good thing about those Indian meals is that there is no cow that’s been shechted. Those things are strictly vegetarian by monk standards.

    However, warning to all readers: do not buy these in Coles. Buy them at the Indian grocery store. Much less expensive, better varieties, and even more hechshers (many of them Hindu ones :)

  • Chaim says:

    Actually… I am not sure which Indian food you are talking about but I did come across the same issue and asked a friend of mine who works for Star K in Asia checking factories etc..
    He said there were issues with this hechsher and the factories checked – I personally trusted him and avoided the hechsher. Many hindus may be vegetarian but we have different definitions on what meat or dairy is in Kashrut.

  • eye says:

    Well, well, well, it didn’t take long.
    Have a look at the extensive bagging of Melbourne’s shechita standards by Sydney’s KA. (The statement has ‘Rabbi Moshe Gutnick’ stamped all over it).
    Why? Because Rabbi Silberberg is thinking of establishing an alternative Kashrut authority there.

  • ariel says:

    the Indian products in question (at least the ones I saw) contained cheese and were labelled kosher “dairy”.
    as far as I am aware, this can pose an issue even if one does not keep chaleiv yisrael
    in any case i’d rather be on the safe side…

    this is Sydney-Melbourne war would be funny if it weren’t so sad.
    I have been told by a Chabad rabbi overseas that he and his community don’t eat any meat from anywhere in Australia because the shchita is not up to scratch. So there you go.

  • Teller of the Truth says:

    this is all a mute point now, some of you made such a big deal over nothing–are you bored souls looking for excitment or something?  look here:

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