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New York…by Netanel Cohn, Kosher Today Features Editor…With the Passover season rapidly approaching, major kashrus organizations were gearing up for “an avalanche” of customer inquiries, as one official put it. In interviews with the agencies, there was a general sense that kosher consumers are increasingly turning to major kashrus agencies for answers to questions they have about kosher certification, Passover and year-round. The consumers use the conventional switchboard, special hotlines and the Web, according to the kashrus agencies. Rabbi Chaim Fogelman of the Brooklyn-based OK Kosher Certification said that on average “we receive 40-50 kashrus inquires a day, split between e-mail and phone.” Mrs. Phyllis Koegel of the Orthodox Union said that its Kosher Consumer Hotline receives an average of 150 calls a day, sometimes reaching close to 170 calls on busy days. The OU also receives approximately some 50 -85 questions a day through its on-line Webbe Rebbe, according to the OU executive. During the final weeks before Passover, said Mrs. Koegel, the number of inquiries rises to between 300 and 500 a day. Mrs. Anne Senter, of the Teaneck NJ based Kof-K Kashrus said that its consumer hotline “receives about 850 questions a month divided approximately equally between e-mail and phone inquiries.” She added that “questions are usually answered directly by the Rabbi who deals with the specific company.” Rabbi Sholem Fishbane of the Chicago-based cRc said that his agency receives “about 1,000 consumer inquires each month, but many more visit the website and use our ipod app.”
The agencies agreed that technology has played a major role in the surging number of inquiries. At the Kof-K site, one can go online, fill out a form and e-mail the question. The cRc developed a kosher app because “we’re thinking about the individual stuck in the supermarket who needs kosher advice,” said Rabbi Fishbane. At the OU, it’s the popular Webbe Rebbe that answers the on-line questions. The organizations also said that many of the inquiries are made by baffled consumers on who might be behind a generic “k” or the identity of an unknown symbol or rabbi. Other major subjects are the possible dairy content of a product, the credibility of a rabbi, or the kashrus of a product that appears to be inherently kosher.
New York…The suit by the Orthodox Union (OU) against Western Edge “for trademark infringement and deceptive trade practice” raised the issue of the need for kosher certification for repackaged foods. In Western Edge’s case, they imported tilapia fish from a Chinese company that represented itself as kosher and was not. The suit alleges that Western Edge produced a fraudulent OU letter when asked by a Brooklyn food company about the kosher status of its tilapia fillets. But kashrus officials say that Western Edge would have needed kosher certification even if the Chinese company was certified because it was processing and repackaging the tilapia. Interestingly enough, the requirement for kosher certification for repackaged foods is not one of the universal policies adopted by such umbrella kashrus groups as the Association of Kashrus Organizations (AKO). While there may not be an official policy, “the standard is that if it is opened up at the repackaging company then some level of rabbinic oversight is needed if they want to use a kosher logo there as well,” said Rabbi Sholem Fishbane, Executive Director of AKO. Most kashrus officials agreed that a brand could not rely on the kosher certification of the manufacturer if the product is repackaged. “The minute the box is opened at a repackaging plant, that’s when our certification ends,” said Rabbi Moshe Elefant, COO of the Orthodox Union. The officials say that they often have to “chase down” companies that don’t bother to apply for kosher certification because they are convinced that they are automatically covered by the manufacturer’s certification. They make the distinction between kosher manufacturers that do private labeling and manufacturers that ship products to be repackaged by a distributor, wholesaler or retailer. In the earlier case, kashrus officials who are on site or do periodic inspections are aware of the label on the package while in the latter case they are not which is why they require a new application for certification.
By Menachem Lubinsky
New York…The decision by Gatorade to secure the kosher certification of the Orthodox Union (OU) was due to the brand’s recognition of new opportunities with younger kosher consumers. Nearly six months after Kosher Today (October 13, 2009) broke the story that both Gatorade and Tootsie Roll would soon add kosher certification, Gatorade itself broke the news in full page ads and press releases in Jewish publications. In fact, in its ad, Gatorade addresses the emergence of a younger more health conscious kosher consumer. Gatorade noted that its new OU symbol on the label “means the athletes in your family can now have the same advantage the pros have had since 1965.” Gatorade’s kosher certification also puts its parent company PepsiCo on a more level playing field with Coca Cola whose PowerAde brand has had OU certification for years. Gatorade has for years dominate the energy beverage category which it hopes to retain with its new kosher certification. Carbonated soft drinks have in recent years lost ground to the energy drinks. The retail dollar value of U.S. carbonated soft drink sales was up about 2.7 percent to $72 billion due to the popularity of higher-priced energy drinks and price increases of traditional soft drinks. The kosher beverage market is estimated at $1.5 billion, about 10% of the overall kosher market.