Suit Claiming Hebrew National Hot Dogs Not Kosher Dismissed

(Thursday, January 31st, 2013)

ConAgra Foods Inc has won the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by consumers claiming the company’s Hebrew National hot dogs and other products are not kosher.

U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank in St. Paul federal court ruled on Thursday that he does not have jurisdiction over a dispute that he described as “intrinsically religious in nature.”

Eleven consumers filed the lawsuit last May, asserting that ConAgra misled customers into believing that its products were kosher according to “the most stringent” Orthodox Jewish standards by including a symbol on its packaging.

The lawsuit alleged that ConAgra’s contractors, meat processor AER Services Inc and kosher supervisor Triangle K, failed to follow proper religious procedures. The plaintiffs sought unspecified damages and an injunction against the labels as well as class-action status for consumers who have bought Hebrew National products since 2008.

But Frank said he was constrained by clear Supreme Court precedent barring civil judges from resolving faith-based disputes.

“Any judicial inquiry as to whether defendant misrepresented that its Hebrew National products are “100% kosher” (when Triangle K, an undisputedly religious entity, certified them as such) would necessarily intrude upon rabbinical religious autonomy,” Frank wrote.

He noted that ConAgra, the only named defendant in the lawsuit, is a secular entity, while the plaintiffs chose to leave Triangle K and AER out of the lawsuit.

“It is Triangle K and its Orthodox rabbis who make such determinations,” Frank said. “Naturally, therefore, this court cannot determine whether defendant’s Hebrew National products are in fact kosher without delving into questions of religious doctrine.”

Hart Robinovitch, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, did not immediately return a call for comment on Thursday evening.

In a statement, ConAgra spokeswoman Becky Niiya said the company has “always stood by our kosher distinction and status.”

“We know how important kosher quality is to our consumers, and we look forward to continuing to make Hebrew National 100% pure kosher beef franks and other kosher offerings,” she said.

(Reuters)

11 Comments

  1. Gadolhadorah says:

    The Triangle K hashgacha has been reviewed repeatedly by some of the top kashruth experts and determined to be on a level equivalent to some of the top Chasideshe hashgachos. Rav Aryeh Ralbag,shlita, the chief rav and posek for the Netherlands who supervises kashruth for the Triangle K has said that one can rely on Hebrew Nationalfor compliance with all the dinim of kashruth set forth in the Aruch Hashulchan etc. While some may prefer a badatz hashgach or other niche hashgachos, for the majority of yidden, Hebrew National products are adequate.

  2. akuperma says:

    What this means is in no case can an American court rule on a kosher dispute except maybe in the case of someone who asserts that pork is kosher. That means that if a product with a clearly “bad” hecksher advertises itself as kosher (heh, we asked the rabbi, and she said it meant all the requirements in the bible – who cares about those nutty hasidim), it isn’t for the American courts to intervene.

    The case appears to have been decided on a motion stating that it failed to assert a valid legal claim. It would have been better if it has been decided on the basis that the claim was not support by the facts.

  3. StraightTalker says:

    To #1. I don’t know who your rabbi is, but as far as I’m concerned none of the major orthodox kashrus agencies recognize or list triangle k on its approved kashrus symbols list. Most orthodox Jews I know do not each such a hechsher, so I have no idea where you are coming from. And surely a Gadol Hador like you claim yourself to be wouldn’t consume such a hechsher of franks in any case.

  4. straight talk says:

    Many years ago a prominet posek in kashrus was asked during a public forum attended by hundreds of frum people if the triangle k was reliable, his answer was- “if you could eat the product without a hechsher than you can eat it with their hechscher on it, but if the product requires a hechscher than don’t rely on theirs”

  5. Softwords says:

    #1 – It is quite clear that you know absolutely nothing about what you are talking about. I happened to have had a very close relationship with several Chashuva Rabanim that are well noted and respected in Kashrut. NONE OF THEM, ABSOLUTELY NONE OF THEM, would recommend relying on the Star-K.

    #4 – I have personally been told statements in the same line as what you mention.

    I can not say what is the status of HN Hot dogs, but according to everybody, the hot dogs are not Glatt.

  6. Moose613 says:

    Triangle K has been problematic for years. To say it is a matter of personal choice begs the question.
    The judge in this case gave a very good reason for throwing out the case. How can a secular judge, expecially a non-Jewish one, rule on a question of kashruth that has produceed varying opinions from different Rabbis?

  7. taxpayer says:

    ironic that the last name of the judge is ‘frank’

  8. shimen says:

    #1 most of the millions of jews in the world dont believe torah misini’ let alone torah shebal peh codified in 4 parts of jewish law. No 5 hilchos shechite, 39 simonei trifos etc (‘Where does it say’they all… ) Who does believe,the few shomrei torah which your kind mock and lable chareidi, black hatters,litvish chassidish exremists sfardish,lebavitch who each have their own shecite, hashgach..each according to their kehiles specifications. They wouldnt touch hebrew national.So when you state ‘the majority of yidden..’your referintg the my 1st 2 lines kind of yidden Like the talmud states’reyacha bemitzvos’.You should remember de klall when de gemmorah, poskim refer to ‘klall yisroel’ they are reffering to shmomrei torah mitzvos Like the talmud states ‘reyacha bemitzvos’, who blieve with every fiber of their being in the relevation of har sini of both torahs, written and oral. Even MO are on slippery slope. Once you start mixing keddusha and timme (see coffee room subject under ‘MO going off derech’ over 1600 comments). They are all missing the point, when it comes to learn kefirah subjects ‘kol boayhu lo yeshiven’.

  9. cherrybim says:

    Every super hashgacha including heimeshe hashgachos have been involved in kashrus mishaps and scandals over the years except for one. Triangle K has never had a scandal associated with it, no matter how much everyone has tried to trip them up. So much for the yappers.

  10. shimen says:

    oh yes? back it up, name all hashgachas and de scandels (where we can verify them)

  11. shimen says:

    #10 Refers to #9

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