NEWARK – With the start of the Rosh Hashanah holiday just around the corner, the Division of Consumer Affairs is highlighting its year-round efforts to protect the integrity of New Jersey’s kosher food market by ensuring that vendors live up to their promises when selling foods that are represented as being kosher.
Rosh Hashanah, one of Judaism’s holiest holidays, begins at sundown on Sunday.
“As those celebrating Rosh Hashanah ring in the Jewish New Year with apples and honey, we don’t want anyone to feel the need to second guess whether their meal is really kosher,” said Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal. “When businesses represent their products to be kosher, New Jersey laws requires those businesses to stand by their representations and when they fall short our Division of Consumer Affairs holds them accountable.”
The Division’s Office of Consumer Protection (“OCP”), promotes compliance with kosher statutes and regulations through on-site inspections of kosher food establishments and public outreach to educate consumers and vendors.
This year, OCP’s Bureau of Kosher Enforcement” held its first-ever Kosher Food Seminar to educate kosher certification agencies on how to maintain compliance with New Jersey kosher regulations. The seminar was attended by dozens of kosher certification agencies that do business in New Jersey, including “KOF-K” in Teaneck, “OU” and “OK in New York, and STAR- K of Baltimore.
Additionally, since January, the Bureau has assisted in the opening of kosher mega supermarkets around the state, and conducted more than 300 kosher-food inspections.
“Keeping kosher, especially during the holidays, should not have to be a guessing game,” said Paul R. Rodríguez, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “We are committed to providing consumers with peace of mind that foods they buy meet their personal kosher standards and dietary guidelines.”
The State of New Jersey does not seek to define the meaning of "kosher" by statute or regulation.
However, the New Jersey Kosher Food Consumer Protection Act ("KFCPA") and the Kosher Food Regulations do require businesses to live up to the promises and representations they make when selling or serving food represented as kosher.
Businesses are required to prominently display disclosure statements providing important information about the foods they prepare and market as kosher, such as whether it contains pork products or alcohol, and whether it was prepared using the same or separate equipment used for non-kosher foods.
Under state law, business must accurately provide information about these practices in a disclosure statement readily visible to consumers. The business must also provide the same information to the Division of Consumer Affairs.
Throughout the year investigators are on the lookout for businesses that advertise kosher foods without providing the Division with the required disclosure statements. Those businesses are provided a “Kosher Packet” containing information about the state’s kosher laws, a copy of a disclosure poster for their store, and a disclosure statement to fill out and return to the Division. The disclosure statements are required to be filled out and returned to the Division within 14 days.
To further protect consumers in the kosher market, investigators with the Bureau of Kosher Enforcement conduct hundreds of inspections to ensure that grocery stores, bakeries, meat markets, street vendors, and other kosher food merchants comply with the law.
Investigators check to make sure that required information is prominently displayed on in-store posters, and that those posters match the information contained in the disclosure statements on file with the Division. These notices must be specific about such things as whether a rabbi supervised and approved the food and its production, whether a kosher organization certified the process or whether there was no supervision. The store must also disclose the name of the certification organization or rabbi, how often certification inspections are done and whether the supervisor requires all ingredients to be kosher supervised.
During kosher food inspections, investigators also inspect purchase orders, walk-in freezers, food prep stations, and other areas of the establishments to make sure food is being prepared, handled, sold, and/or served in accordance with the disclosure statements.
Last year, investigators performed approximately 450 on-site kosher inspections. This year they are on track to meet or exceed that number. The Division issued Notices of Violation to 11 kosher food establishments so far in 2019.
The Notices of Violation do not mean that the products offered by these vendors fail to satisfy the requirements of Jewish dietary law, or kashrut. Moreover, a business’s receipt of a Notice of Violation does not mean that violations are ongoing at that establishment.
Below is a list of businesses that received Notices of Violation this year, the violations they were cited for, and the civil penalties they were assessed.
Avo King Inc. d/b/a Avo King, San Juan Capistrano, California: Unauthorized use of a kosher symbol $3,500.
Turkana Food, Inc, Kenilworth: Unauthorized use of a kosher symbol $3,500.
BJ’s Wholesale Club Inc. d/b/a BJ’s, Paramus: Failure to comply with disclosure requirements. $3,000.
Alen’s Deli and Catering, Inc., Springfield: Failure to comply with disclaimer requirement in connection with the sale of food on menu, failure to comply with required advertising practices in connection with the sale of kosher food. $5,000.
Libby Enterprises Inc. d/b/a Rita's Italian Ice & Frozen Custard, North Brunswick: Failure to post kosher supervision disclosure statement, failure to complete and return disclosure forms to the Division, failure to maintain a properly bound logbook. $4,500.
Clark Bagels Inc. d/b/a Clark Bagels, Clark: Failure to comply with disclosure requirements: Failure to conform sales practices with the posted disclosure. $1,500.
Motgage Apple Cakes LLC d/b/a/ Mortgage Apple Cakes, Teaneck: Failure to maintain a properly bound logbook. $750.
Shirley’s New York Deli LLC d/b/a Shapiro’s Deli, Red Bank: Failure to comply with disclaimer requirement in connection with the sale of food on menu, failure to comply with required advertising practices in connection with the sale of kosher food. $2,000.
Fairway Paramus LLC d/b/a Fairway Market, Paramus: Failure to comply with disclosure requirements. $500
Fairway Woodland Park LLC d/b/a Fairway Market, Woodland Park: Failure to comply with disclosure requirements, failure to maintain a properly bound logbook. $3,500.
BBB Bakery LLC d/b/a Palermo Bakery, Fair Lawn: Failure to comply with disclosure requirements. $1,000.
Investigator Mitchel Bomrind, assigned to the Office of Consumer Protection, leads the Division’s kosher investigation and enforcement efforts.
Consumers and establishments that sell kosher foods can find additional information at the Division of Consumer Affairs’ website:
Frequently Asked Questions on Buying Kosher Food in New Jersey
Consumer Brief: “Buying Kosher Food”
Information for Kosher Food Establishments
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a 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.