Saturday, February 12, 2011

Investigating Kashrut Properly

One of the drawbacks to life in RBS is there are elements of the community that want to be frummer than everyone else. If that makes them happy, then it generally doesn't bother me. The problem is in RBS these elements tend not to be satisfied with "improving" themselves and want to make their chumras public policy. In RBS B (home of such embarrassing groups as the Neturei Karta and the Burka Babes) the trend is to use Tzniut as the vehicle for attack.

In RBS A there has been an Anglo shul that has been the lightning rod of controversy by handling community issues the "Daas Torah" way. Over the past 6 months they have hosted a number of special shiurim designed on increasing "awareness" of the level of kashrut. As an offshoot there have been two major kashrut scandals. When the dust settles it became clear that there was never anything problems with the kashrut of the food. A little more care and due deligence would have prevented setting off the Kashrut Alarm.

Over the past week, I conducted a kashrut investigation of my own. The Keurig website had explicitly stated that Twinings K-Cups were not Kosher. The Twinings web page stated that all of their products sold in the United States and Canada were certified kosher by the London Beth Din with a link to their website. As we sell to schools, shuls and businesses in the Jewish community, providing in correct kosher information would be really bad.

If I followed the models practised locally, we would have notified all of our customers that Twinings wasn't kosher and pulled the kosher information off our website. Instead, I contacted Keurig, Twinings and the London Beth Din. Keurig repeated the Kosher information on their website and said I should take it up with Twinings. The London Beth Din said they would investigate and I never heard from them again. Twinings initially provided their London Beth Din Kosher information. They then told me that they had contacted Keurig and they had accepted their OU certification and the website would be corrected. The Keurig website now lists their Twinings tea as being certified by the OU.

When money and halacha are mixed together, it is very easy for things to get complicated. One time, when our Rabbi was asked to check out a particular restaurant he found certain things that set of warning bells. Rav Goldstein (who is a big local Posek) told him that while there were valid concerns, halchically it would not be permitted to say that the restaurant was not kosher. Unless there is a blatant kashrut violation, time and care need to be taken to get all the facts correct before making public proclamations. In this particular case Twinings was able to reestablish themselves on equal footing with the other 4 tea manufacturers without the mass panic of customers who would falsely think their brewers had been used for a non-kosher product.

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