Kosher labeling protected under planned legislation

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congressional sponsors of Food and Drug Administration reform legislation have agreed to include language protecting kosher-labeling laws.

Orthodox groups had charged that provisions in the legislation, which seeks to replace existing state food safety and labeling laws with uniform federal laws, would have made it more difficult for consumers to verify the authenticity of kosher products.

Kosher-labeling laws — which deal with consumer protection rather than rabbinic designation of what is kosher — are currently in effect in at least 19 states.

The groups were concerned that those laws would be adversely impacted by the reform legislation.

At meetings last week with Mandell Ganchrow, president of the Orthodox Union, and Jeff Wice, counsel for New York state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) and Rep. Scott Klug (R-Wis.) agreed to accept the language that would safeguard kosher interests.

According to Ganchrow, the language says: "Nothing contained in this act shall be deemed to apply to, or to pre-empt, any state or local government from enacting any law, rule, or regulation with respect to religious dietary preparations."

Ganchrow said Klug indicated he might even broaden that language in the House version of the reform legislation.

After talking to the lawmakers, Ganchrow said, "I'm 99.9 percent sure that there will be nothing in this legislation that will inadvertently affect the kosher consumer."