Although Hebrew National is certified kosher by the Triangle K supervision, and a company known as AER oversees the kosher slaughtering services at a plant in the Midwest, the lawsuit that was recently filed in Minnesota alleges that AER workers reported witnessing procedures at slaughterhouses that “rendered the meat being processed not kosher.”
According to the approximately 65-page complaint, workers who were hired to carry out the kosher slaughtering related their concerns to AER supervisor Rabbi Moshe Fyzakov, and to Rabbi Aryeh Ralbag, co-owner of Triangle K, but the bosses “did little or nothing to correct the transgressions. Rather, the persons making the complaints were terminated or otherwise threatened with adverse retaliation, such as job transfers to other facilities or states. In turn, non-kosher meat was delivered to ConAgra and packaged, labeled and sold to the public [including the plaintiffs in the lawsuit] as strictly 100% kosher.”
Discussing the lawsuit, Hart L. Robinovitch, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said, “ We’re not saying that they’re passing off pork as kosher products… but in the complaint, as you can see, we went through the different elements and the different requirements for meat to be considered kosher, in terms of the way the cows are slaughtered, and the meat is prepared; and based on our investigation, there were certain things that weren’t conducted properly, in a systematic way, from the way cows were slaughtered, to the way the lungs were inspected or not inspected for imperfections, as is required to meet the standard that the meat is 100 percent kosher,” as defined by the laws of kashrut.
AER has been recruiting men from Israel to serve as kosher slaughterers and checkers. One of these workers insisted that AER was treating its employees “like dirt,” setting them up in apartments where four of them had to share a room and sleep on mattresses on the floor. AER “would cheat on the kashrut issue,” said the employee, who carried photo IDs that identified him as “rabbi.”
Speaking on behalf of the plaintiffs bringing the lawsuit, Robinovitch explained that they believed they were purchasing products that were completely kosher. “Probably our primary reason for filing the lawsuit,” the attorney stated, “is to force Hebrew National to stop deceiving consumers about the kosher status of its products.” Robinovitch said that the lawsuit is further intended to obtain compensation for the plaintiffs who paid more than the typical market price when they bought the supposedly premium kosher Hebrew National items. “We will prove that there was a standard overcharge on these products,” he said, “and therefore we will seek monetary relief” for those whom the court determines have been financially misled.
“We stand behind the quality of Hebrew National and its kosher status,” stated Teresa Paulsen, Vice President for Communications and External Affairs of ConAgra, the parent company of Hebrew National, in an e-mail.