Preparing for Passover? New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs’ Kosher Enforcement Helps Ensure Honesty, Transparency in Sale of Kosher Foods
NEWARK – New Jerseyans who shop for kosher foods in preparation for Passover can rest assured that the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs requires supermarkets, delis, and other businesses to live up to their promises when selling foods that are represented as being kosher.
The Passover holiday begins at sundown on Friday, April 3.
“Kosher foods, and especially kosher-for-Passover foods, are prepared with labor-intensive sanitary procedures that lead to more expensive products,” Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said. “New Jersey is the state with the second-largest percentage of Jewish residents. Our laws require honesty in the sale of products that are represented as kosher, pareve, or related designations.”
Division of Consumer Affairs Acting Director Steve Lee said, “Other states have pointed to New Jersey’s kosher enforcement as a model because we protect consumers without crossing the church-state divide. We simply require transparency from businesses that offer kosher foods, thereby allowing consumers to make informed decisions.”
Because kosher is a religious designation with standards that differ between congregations, the State of New Jersey does not attempt to define “kosher” by statute or regulation. But New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act requires businesses to live up to the promises and representations they make when selling merchandise, including food, to the public.
In addition, New Jersey’s Kosher Food Protection Law and Kosher Food Regulations further protect the kosher-buying public by requiring kosher food sellers to disclose important information to the public. For example:
- Establishments that hold themselves out as selling, preparing, or maintaining kosher food must display, in a location readily visible to consumer, a statement that discloses the basis on which the “kosher” designation is made (such as that the food was approved by a kosher certification organization, or by an individual such as a rabbi). With this information, the consumer can decide whether the kosher representation meets his or her personal standards for kosher food.
- Establishments that sell food represented as kosher-for-Passover must display a disclosure poster in advance of Passover and through the end of the holiday.
- Packaged foods may only bear a kosher symbol (such as the “OU” used by the Orthodox Union) with prior written authorization from the person or agency represented by that symbol. Supermarkets and other businesses that sell such foods in their sealed containers, may rely on the manufacturer’s or distributor’s representation that the proper approval was obtained.
- Additional disclosure requirements apply to businesses that represent themselves as being “under kosher supervision”; businesses that slaughter meat or poultry to be sold as kosher; and other establishments.
The Division works year-round to inspect businesses that purport to sell kosher foods, and take enforcement action when necessary.
In June 2014, Wakefern Food Corp. agreed to pay the Division an enhanced penalty of $35,000 for violations related to the use of kosher symbols on more than 1,000 Wakefern Private Label coffee bags at 12 ShopRite supermarkets in New Jersey. Between October 2012 and May 2013, the stores possessed bags that bore the symbol of a kosher certifying authority, without approval from that authority. Wakefern had previously paid a civil penalty in 2009 for violating the same provision with regard to a different brand of coffee bags.
The Division’s Office of Consumer Protection has performed approximately 500 on-site kosher inspections since August 2013. The vast majority of those businesses passed inspection, with 16 receiving warnings or citations for failing to maintain required information. In order to ensure that businesses are fully informed of the law, the Division sent mailings to more than 800 kosher establishments in June and July 2014.
Investigator Mitchell Bomrind, assigned to the Office of Consumer Protection within the Division of Consumer Affairs, leads the Division’s kosher investigation and enforcement efforts.
Information for for Consumers and Kosher Establishments:
Consumers, and establishments that sell kosher foods, can find additional information at the Division of Consumer Affairs’ website:
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse,
can file an online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting
its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504- 6200.
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