With Governor Cuomo’s signature today, Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal’s new law will crack down on violators of New York’s kosher law, whose unscrupulous actions do untold harm to New Yorkers’ closely held religious beliefs by increasing the penalties associated with fraudulent packaging, sale and certification of kosher food.
Assemblymember Rosenthal introduced this legislation after the New York State Department of Agriculture and Market’s kosher food inspection unit was decimated by budget cuts in 2011, leaving the unit without inspectors. With limited power to ensure that establishments marketing themselves as kosher display their certification standards and adhere to them faithfully, the increased penalties prescribed by this bill will act as a strong deterrent to those looking to exploit an atmosphere of diminished regulation. Just recently a class action lawsuit, filed against ConAgra Food, which owns Hebrew National, alleged the company had falsely labeled products as kosher despite the plant’s operating under non-kosher practices.
“Millions of New Yorkers rely on kosher foods as an essential component of Jewish Halachic law, as do other for purely dietary and health reasons,” said Assemblymember Rosenthal. “Decreasing the state’s oversight of this food category has left a huge population vulnerable to a few unscrupulous operators. Because the Department of Agriculture and Market’s kosher inspection unit is unlikely to be restored in the immediate future, the increased penalties required by this new law will deter those seeking to exploit current circumstances,” she said.
In 60 days New York State will be allowed to levy increased fines for a first offense by $1,000 to $2,500, and by $2,000 to $7,500 for a second offense. This law will ensure that violators, who have been operating with relative impunity since the 2010-2011 budget cuts, will be deprived of their incentive to report the kosher status of their foods to the Department of Agriculture and Markets. This bill was sponsored in the State Senate by Jack M. Martins (R- Nassau) and was strongly supported by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the nation’s largest certifier of kosher foods.
“Even with the loss of specially trained inspectors who enforce kosher standards, New York has safeguard the integrity of the kosher industry and an additional level of protection for the millions of consumers,” said Rosenthal.