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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.
New York…by Tova Ross, Feature Editor…Every year, the event occurs, bringing along with it questions of turkey and stuffing, cranberry sauce and pecan pie. No, it’s not Thanksgiving dinner, but rather, the annual debate on whether Jews should even be celebrating Thanksgiving. Many Orthodox families do not mark the day with any kind of celebration, perhaps feeling that a holiday associated with good food is more fitting in a religious setting like Sukkot or Passover. There is some debate amongst Talmudic scholars whether Thanksgiving Day is a religious or secular holiday. But that’s where the debate ends since in kosher stores all over America sales of Thanksgiving foods are soaring.
On Main Street in Kew Gardens Hills, various kosher stores, such as Meal Mart, Mauzone and Brach’s, all offer Thanksgiving feasts for up to 12 people. Chef Marty Levin of Mauzone Home Kosher Foods said, “When Mauzone’s was in the retails business, we were making turkeys around the clock for our customers, and sold at least 200-300 for Thanksgiving to our consumers.” Currently, Mauzone’s delivers meals to kosher-keeping seniors through the Meals on Wheels program, and has a contract with the city to deliver meals to seniors across the entire city for holidays, including Thanksgiving. Mauzone’s kosher Thanksgiving meal includes freshly-roasted turkey breast with pan gravy, bread stuffing and vegetables, sweet potato soufflé, and glazed green beans. Leah Katz of Brach’s Glatt Kosher Meat Market puts turkey sales at about 100-150 turkeys during Thanksgiving, pointing out that turkey is a popular dish year-round. “Many people use our Thanksgiving meals for that Shabbos or, if the timing is right, a Chanukah dinner.” Other side dishes include a lauded stuffing, sweet potato kugel, and cranberry relish. One Kew Gardens Hills resident said, “There is no question that there is a holiday atmosphere on Main Street on Thanksgiving, with great hustle and bustle similar to the pre-Yom Tov activity. The bakeries are crowded with people buying bread and pie or cake for the Thanksgiving meal. I’m always so happy to see this, because it proves that even in such an intensely Orthodox neighborhood as Kew Gardens Hills, so many people celebrate the quintessential American holiday. And the very next morning, with people buying their Shabbat food, you’ll hear “Good Shabbos” instead of “Happy Thanksgiving.” It’s an excellent combination of the best in American and Jewish traditions.”
Gourmet Glatt in the Five Towns, is offering a Thanksgiving meal for 8 including turkey, stuffing, yams, green beans almandine, and cranberry sauce. In Brooklyn, China Glatt is offering a traditional turkey dinner in addition to its celebrated sushi and Chinese food, and Dougie’s has a delicious Thanksgiving feast for 10 that includes hot open turkey, stuffing, sweet potato chips, and Dougie’s famous gravy, plus apple or cherry pie. Masbiah Soup Kitchen in Brooklyn plans to serve turkey as well. And even Goldberg’s grocery store in Borough Park is offering weekly specials including turkey steaks and cutlets – though Thanksgiving itself is not referenced by the store. Retailers are not the only ones benefiting from soaring Thanksgiving sales. Kosher restaurants all over the country are offering kosher turkey dinners.
New York…by Staff Reporters…Students who eat kosher at Temple University in Philadelphia now have Café 613 to eat some kosher certified matzoh balls. But not too far from the campus is a Whole Foods, the gourmet and healthy culinary mecca, which recently announced that it would begin carrying chicken and turkey (just in time for Thanksgiving) from The Kosher Valley, which is certified by both the OU and K’hal Adath Jeshurun. Kosher chicken broth can be found, from the Pacific Natural Foods brand. Whole Foods also now carries popular kosher product such as Streit’s gluten-free macaroons, cakes, and stuffing mixes, Elyon marshmallows (perfect for vegans who abstain from the gelatin found in non-kosher marshmallows), and Chanukah gelt from Divine Chocolate – the familiar chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil, but this time, with Fair trade imprints. The chocolates have a Triangle K symbol. Kashrut-observant NYU students who frequent the Union Square locale of Whole Foods now have a quick and inexpensive way to obtain additional kosher staples off-campus.
The range of products available in Philadelphia are also available in many other Whole Food stores. The organic kosher chicken broth from Pacific Natural Foods was specifically developed for Whole Foods Market, since it meets the company’s strict quality standards. It is made from free-range, grain-fed chickens that are carefully raised without antibiotics or added growth hormones, and are processed according to kosher standards. Additionally, Whole Foods Market customers will continue to find an array of kosher products from Streit’s, the only family-owned-and-operated matzo producer in the U.S. For shoppers who have special dietary needs, Whole Foods Market offers other Streit’s kosher products, including vegetarian and gluten-free macaroons, vegetarian cake and stuffing mixes that are free of hydrogenated oils, artificial preservatives and MSG.
By Menachem Lubinsky
New York…The recession continues to have a significant impact on kosher food sales despite a perception that kosher food is “recession-proof,” Kosher Today has learned. In dozens of interviews with industry officials, it became clear that the buying habits of kosher consumers was markedly different this past Passover than it was just two or three years ago. “People are being squeezed on all sides” said a Boro Park retailer, “and they are more price conscious than ever.” He said that he observed that more customers were buying from lists rather than just impulse buying or walking up and down the aisles and picking up items. In nearby Flatbush where Pomegranate has set a new standard in shopping for kosher foods, there were many customers who now shop in multiple stores. A kosher blogger wrote: “I have learned to buy items at Pomegranate that cost about the same everywhere (i.e. many dairy products) and to save by buying at places like COSTCO, Paperific and the Kolel store.” The retailers say they are constantly reminded by customers of a breadwinner that has lost their job. Stores that recorded double-digit growth in 2008, said they only did 2% – 3% better on sales during Passover 2010 than they did in 2009. The same seemed to be true in kosher wines where many customers shunned the more expensive wines they routinely bought in 2008. The number of people relying on help from such charities as Met Council on Jewish Poverty, Tomchei Shabbos and Keren Aniyim as well as similar organizations in cities outside of New York also increased significantly.
Despite this disturbing development for the kosher food industry, sources say, the industry as a whole seems to have weathered the “pockets of downturns” well. They pointed to making up some of the slack with volume. “Natural growth has always helped the industry even in a down economy,” said one kosher food manufacturer. New items also continue to drive sales as younger kosher customers continue to show a strong desire to try new and interesting foods. While there is talk of a recovery, in the kosher food industry the recession still continues to take its toll.