Turns out, Hebrew National may not answer to a higher authority. At least, that's what plaintiffs are claiming in a suit for fraud against the allegedly kosher brand.
Consumers claim that meat processing standards at AER Services Inc, which provides kosher meat to ConAgra for Hebrew National products, fell below the requirements for kosher certification. ConAgra was negligent in continuing to label Hebrew National hotdogs as kosher, according to the complaint.
AER Services is not named in the suit but their actions are the basis for the complaint.
Employees at AER allegedly complained to the company about procedures at the slaughterhouse. Problems with the slaughtering and inspective process violated the rules of kashrut, as reported by the Jewish press.
When the inappropriate actions were brought to light, complaining employees were fired or transferred, plaintiffs' claim.
ConAgra stands behind the kosher status of Hebrew National, based on a statement by ConAgra spokesperson Teresa Paulsen. But the issue here is more than just a religious debate.
The claim against ConAgra alleges violations of Minnesota state consumer fraud laws, where the claim was raised. Mislabeling food, whether the label is kosher, sugar-free, or vegetarian, is fraud and individual states as well as the federal government prohibit producers from misleading consumers.
The fact that ConAgra was sued for negligence indicates that plaintiffs don't think the food processing giant set out to defraud consumers.
Rather, the allegation is that ConAgra failed to appropriately monitor the kosher status of meat that went into Hebrew National hot dogs. It's the relationship between AER and ConAgra that likely opened the latter up to liability.
While the alleged kosher fraud may or may not be proven in court, there's a good chance that Hebrew National's reputation may not bounce back. "How does a consumer who thinks he is buying kosher meat really know he is buying kosher meat?" plaintiff's lawyer Hart Robinovitch said in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. Earning back consumer trust may take a while.