NEWARK – New Jerseyans shopping for a Passover Seder or stocking up on kosher-for-Passover items this week can shop with confidence because the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs has inspected more than 500 supermarkets, delis, and other businesses this year to ensure they’re living up to their claims when selling foods that are represented as kosher.
The Passover holiday begins at sundown on Friday, April 22.
“Keeping kosher for Passover should not be a guessing game for New Jersey consumers,” said Acting Attorney General Robert Lougy. “Our laws require full transparency from businesses that offer kosher foods, so shoppers can make informed decisions on what to buy in preparation for this important Jewish holiday.”
Because kosher is a religious designation with standards that differ between congregations, New Jersey does not attempt to define “kosher” by statute or regulation. Instead, consumer protection laws require establishments claiming to be kosher to prominently display posters specifying what the establishment means by the term “kosher.”
The posters must disclose specific information, such as whether the food was approved by a kosher certification organization or by an individual such as a rabbi, or not supervised at all. If under supervision, stores must disclose the name of their rabbinic certifier or supervising kosher agency, how often the kosher supervisor inspects the store, and whether or not the kosher supervisor requires all ingredients to be kosher-supervised.
If a business is selling food represented as “Kosher for Passover,” a disclosure notice must be posted at least 30 days prior to the holiday. If a caterer takes over a facility solely for Passover, a disclosure must be posted as soon as the caterer assumes control of the facility. The disclosure must remain in place until the end of Passover.
“The signage must provide consumers with all the information they need to decide for themselves whether the kosher representation meets his or her personal standards for kosher food,’ said Steve Lee. Acting Director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. “The Division inspects establishments year-round to ensure full disclosure in the sale of products represented as ‘kosher,’ ‘pareve,’ or other related designations.”
New Jersey’s Kosher Food Protection Law and Kosher Food Regulations protect the kosher-buying public by requiring kosher food sellers to disclose important information to the public, as set forth below:
- 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 sealed containers may rely on the manufacturer’s or distributor’s representation that the proper approval was obtained.
Businesses that use meat and poultry must disclose additional information including how the meat or poultry was slaughtered, cut and prepared for sale.
Establishments that prepare foods must disclose whether they use separate utensils for meat, dairy, and ‘pareve’ items; and whether they keep separate working areas for the preparation of meat, dairy, and ‘pareve’ items.
- Establishments that represent themselves as being “under kosher supervision” must disclose upon request any items not under supervision.
Last year, the Division’s Office of Consumer Protection inspected 546 establishments purporting to sell kosher foods, more than 100 inspections than the year before. As a result of those visits, 10 establishments were cited and assessed civil penalties totaling $12,000 for alleged violations ranging from mislabeling food items to failure to keep proper records or display proper signage.
Investigator Mitchell Bomrind, assigned to the Office of Consumer Protection within the Division of Consumer Affairs, conducts the Division’s kosher investigation and enforcement efforts.
Information 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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