Hebrew National is a brand of hot dogs and sausages that are supposed to be kosher. However, the question that is now being raised is, “Are Hebrew National hot dogs really kosher?”
The Hebrew National Kosher Sausage Factory, Inc. was founded on East Broadway on the lower east side of Manhattan in 1905. In 1968, Hebrew National was sold to Riviana Foods, which was then taken over by Colgate-Palmolive in 1976. Hebrew National was acquired by ConAgra Foods in 1993.
Eleven individual consumers filed a lawsuit against ConAgra Foods in May in Minnesota state court. The lawsuit claims that the hot dogs and other products being sold under the Hebrew National brand are not really kosher. ConAgra moved the case in June to a federal court in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Not up to standards
AER Services Inc is who provides meat processing services to ConAgra Foods. The lawsuit alleges that the meat processing services were not up to the standards that are necessary to label Hebrew National products as being kosher. The lawsuit says that the result of this is that consumers have been misled by ConAgra Foods, who has been charging premium prices for meat that is not kosher.
The lawsuit alleges that ConAgra Foods in Omaha, Nebraska marks its Hebrew National packages with a “Triangle K” symbol. It represents that the contents are kosher. Kosher meaning kosher “as defined by the most stringent Jews who follow Orthodox Jewish law.”
However, the lawsuit says that AER supervisors “did little or nothing” to speak to complaints voiced by employees that the meat being processed for ConAgra Foods was non-kosher. The lawsuit goes on to say that the AER in Skokie, Illinois threatened retaliation or fired those employees who complained about the meat not being kosher.
Statement for Hebrew National
Teresa Paulsen, a spokeswoman for ConAgra Foods, made a statement for the company on Monday, June 18th. She said, “While we can’t comment on pending litigation, we stand behind the quality of Hebrew National and its kosher status.”
While AER has not been named in the lawsuit, AER’s president, Shlomoh Ben-David, said in a telephone interview, “The allegations in the complaint regarding AER are completely and utterly false. There is no basis for them, and they are without any merit.”
Those bringing the lawsuit are wanting an injunction against further mislabeling and unspecified damages. The claim wants class-action status for United States purchasers of Hebrew National products for the past four years. The lawsuit also alleges negligence and violations of state consumer fraud laws.
An invisible fraud
Hart Robinovitch, one of the attorneys for those bringing the lawsuit, said in a telephone interview, “This is an invisible fraud. How does a consumer who thinks he is buying kosher meat really know he is buying kosher meat? It’s a very, very difficult thing for a consumer to detect, unless someone investigates.”
In its promotion of Hebrew National products, ConAgra Foods has the slogan, “We answer to a higher authority.” Apparently, the company will now be answering to a legal authority in addition to that “higher authority”.