Lawsuit accuses Hebrew National of unkosher practices

A lawsuit filed against Hebrew National alleges that its hot dogs and other products are not actually kosher.

The class-action suit filed May 18 in a Minnesota state court accuses ConAgra Foods, Inc., which owns the Hebrew National brand, of consumer fraud. It accuses the company of several transactions that would render the meat being processed as not kosher, and of mistreating its employees, especially its kosher supervisors and slaughterers. Employees who complained about the inappropriate actions were fired or transferred, the suit claims.

Among the complaints are that nonkosher meat was packaged and labeled as kosher, that the lungs were not inspected well enough for imperfections and that some cows were slaughtered incorrectly.

The suit, originally reported by the American Jewish World newspaper, is seeking monetary damages equal to the total amount that consumers in the suit paid for Hebrew National meat products.

Triangle-K, the Brooklyn, N.Y.–based supervising agency that certifies Hebrew National products as kosher and the company that processes the kosher meat, unequivocally rejected the allegations and contended that disgruntled former employees might be behind them.

Rabbi Aryeh Ralbag, who owns Triangle-K, said in a statement that the claims were “outrageously false and defamatory.”

The firm AER, which provides the kosher slaughtering services at Hebrew National facilities in the Midwest, including in Minnesota, rejected the charges as well.

Teresa Paulson, a ConAgra spokesperson, said she could not comment on pending litigation but that the company stood by Hebrew National’s kosher status.

Neither AER nor Triangle-K is named as a defendant in the suit.

It is not the first time Hebrew National has faced challenges from the observant Jewish community.

In fact, the company, whose famous slogan “We answer to a higher authority” has become synonymous with kosher food among the general population, has never been judged “kosher enough” by the observant mainstream. The Conser-vative movement has accepted Hebrew National’s kosher certification only since 2004, and major Orthodox authorities still do not. — jta & j. staff