Culture, Global, Politics, Religion

Kosher law in Georgia

Last week, Georgia Gov. Sunny Perdue signed into law House Bill 1345, which fixed the Kosher Food Labeling Act (KFLA) of Georgia, which required that any food sold as kosher had to meet the guidelines of the “Orthodox Hebrew religious rules and requirements.” This law was ruled unconstitutional because it had the government mandating whose standards qualified as acceptably kosher – not a good position for our government to find itself in, and mirrored a similar problem found in New York’s Kosher Law Protection act of 2004. Apparently this problem was later fixed, as New York adopted a law that set them on the same path that Georgia is now treading .
The new law in Georgia requires rather that consumers are informed about the standards under which any kosher food product was certified. I will be interested to see if Georgia can do well imitate New York didn’t‘s path in a matter regarding religion. I’m not really sure how helpful all this will be to the kosher consumer, but I suppose that I would be pleased to know the standards set by any given hashgacha. I wonder, though, if it will really help solve the “this rabbi is rumored to never show up and check” problem

7 thoughts on “Kosher law in Georgia

  1. I have a serious problem with any government involvement in the regulation of kashrut; something which is exclusively a matter of faith.
    Last time I checked Pirkei Avot [Ethics of our Fathers] mandated that Jews should find for themselves a rabbi who would guide them in, amongst other things, matters of kashrut. It is the kosher consumer’s rabbi’s obligation/duty to guide his adherents as to what, by his standards, is acceptably kosher.
    That having been said, I believe that it behooves purveyors of kosher foods, as a convenience for their customers, to voluntarily post/give notice of the hashgacha which declared the food to be kosher. Of course in this age of countless hashgachas and over a thousand heckshers the burden ever more so must fall on the consumer’s rabbi to give guidance as to what he, the rabbi, finds acceptable.

  2. Hi Kol! FYI creating a system of notifying consumers regarding kosher supervision is exactly what New York State does now. There’s a central database- available on the NY Dept of Agriculture website- which lists any and all kosher establishments and factories and allows one to see who supervises the kashrut. I know this because I’m on the list, as I supervise a local bakery, and my interactions with the state kosher inspectors from the state have been nothing but professional and cordial.
    In fact, contra the claims this is beyond the purview of the state, I’m very comfortable as a Conservative rabbi with this system- in NY, the state in no way sets kosher standards but only disseminates information so consumers can make informed choices. The role of the kosher inspectors is to makes sure that the food producing businesses are doing what they say they are doing, under their own chosen supervisor. If a Reform or Conservative rabbi wanted to supervise a business, they could, and have whatever standards they wanted. That information- e.g, who supervises – is made public.
    It’s a decent system, IMO, and sounds just like what GA is proposing.
    R Neal Loevinger

  3. I think it’s a good idea, but I’m not so sure the government should be the one with the database.

  4. The issue here isn’t religious to me. This is just plainly beyond the purview of the United States or any state.
    If it weren’t for trademark law, hechshers would be useless. Anyone could put an OU (or whatever) on any food product, and we’d have no way of knowing, while in the supermarket, what’s what. So clearly the state has at least some role in kashrut; the question is only, how much is correct and in what form?

  5. There are tons of food-based regulations that most consumers are only vaguely aware of, but give certain words very specific meanings. In recent years, for example, there have been federal standards introduced for what can be labeled “organic,” and there are lots of rules about words like “natural” or “low fat.”
    Kosher laws are different in that they don’t set the definition of “kosher” directly, but they require businesses that label their food “kosher” to provide certain information about what that means. The government isn’t imposing religion on anyone or setting any religious standards–they’re just requiring information to back up advertising claims.

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