Rabbi Aryeh Ralbag & Triangle K Respond To ‘Outrageously False & Defamatory Allegations’

(Tuesday, June 19th, 2012)

Outrageously false and defamatory allegations have been made by anonymous disgruntled individuals against Triangle-K’s strict rabbinical supervision of Hebrew National products in a complaint filed in court against the company that owns Hebrew National. Those who make the false allegations know full well that because their identities are concealed and their false statements are made in a court pleading, Triangle-K and its principals cannot sue them for defamation. The court complaint is filed on behalf of 11 consumers, none of whom claims to keep kosher, and all allege that they buy Hebrew National products only because they are represented to be “a higher quality product.”

If any person making such an allegation against Triangle-K has the integrity to do so in a manner that subjects him to a defamation lawsuit, Triangle-K and its principals will promptly institute proceedings against that person in a rabbinic court (“Beit Din”) and, if authorized by the rabbinic court, will file a defamation lawsuit against the person, company, or organization responsible for such slander and libel.
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The fact is that, contrary to the defamatory allegations, Triangle-K has substantially increased and improved the kashrut supervision on Hebrew National products since it began its supervision in 2004.

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1. Kashrut of the slaughtering operation. – Triangle-K instituted a process under which slaughtering is now done with a team of two or three shochtim constantly in the kill box (depending on each specific plant). Each shochet on the team slaughters not more than a prescribed quota of cattle, and the knife used for the shechitah is examined before and after every slaughter for possible nicks by the shochet or by another member of the team. The team continuously slaughters in rotation. This ensures that no shochet becomes weary and careless and that the knives are always free of nicks. In addition each shochet is required to have numerous knives ready to slaughter with. Contrary to the false anonymous allegation in the court complaint, Hebrew National products are consistently slaughtered in the prescribed manner required to be considered kosher.

2. Examination of cattle before and after shechitah. – Only cattle that are free from physical defects and clean enough are slaughtered for kosher consumption. Triangle-K requires an examination of all cattle to insure that the clean cut necessary for kosher slaughter can be made and that the cattle can, after examination, be qualified for kosher consumption. In addition to prescribing a team of shochtim, Triangle-K instituted the requirement that there be two examiners (“bodkim”). One is a bodek pnim, who examines each animal’s lung while it is still in the animal. The other is a bodek chutz, who examines the animal’s lung after it has been removed and who inflates it. In some plants two bodkei pnim and two bodkei chutz are constantly on the line. Triangle-K represents that Hebrew National’s product is stam kosher, not glatt kosher. Its goal in providing the supervision to Hebrew National products is to make 100% stam kosher meat available to general consumers throughout the United States. Triangle-K also places numerous mashgichim at various points on the production line who make specific markings and simanim to ensure the correct labeling on the kosher-approved cattle.

3. Examination of knives. – Because of the “team” requirement instituted by Triangle-K, the knives used in the slaughtering process are constantly inspected to ensure that they have no nicks. Knives are checked after each shechitah, and if a nick is found the animal is marked non-kosher. Each evening, all Rabbis and shochtim are also required to present their knives to the Rosh-Tsevet (Crew manager) for inspection to make sure the knives do not have any nicks. In addition, cattle are not certified as kosher if an air compressor gun was used on the animal prior to shechitah.

4. Post-slaughter inspection. – All slaughtered cattle are carefully examined by a bodek pnim and by a bodek chutz. It is totally false and defamatory to say, as the court complaint declares anonymously, that the organs of animals used in Hebrew National products are “not consistently inspected after the slaughter.”

5. Removal of blood. – Triangle-K drains all slaughtered cattles’ blood and washes it in accordance with the strictest standards of Jewish Law. Allegations that the soaking, salting and washing are inadequate are totally false. Allegations that the carcass is halachically cooked before it is salted are totally false.

6. Disciplining of shochtim. – Triangle-K has required the dismissal of shochtim and bodkim who failed to comply with the high standards instituted by Triangle-K. It has never reprimanded or subjected to retaliatory measures any employee who objected to the “slaughter of dirty cows.” Nor has the Triangle-K asked any employee “to look the other way” if he saw a violation of kosher laws. Each plant’s head shochet and bodek reports to the Triangle-K on a weekly basis. The shochtim and bodkim are constantly tested and checked in surprise visits by Triangle-K for their knowledge of the halachic material and for their skills. Some shochtim and bodkim whose employment was terminated because of their failure to adhere to Triangle-K’s high standards may have initiated the false allegations on which the court complaint was based.
We strongly re-affirm that the Triangle-K Kashrus symbol on Hebrew National products guarantees that the product is 100% strictly Kosher.

The Triangle K Rabbinic team is always available to answer specific questions about any part of the process of the shechitha. We base our our strict kosher certification on the writings and decisions of the greatest scholars and poskim of the last few hundred years of Rabbinic Jewish law and literature.

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22 Comments

  1. Savlanut says:

    My rabannim tell me that if food is under an excellent hechsher which has a reputation for strict adherence to halacha and close supervision by Yirei Shamayim then there is a chance that the food is Kosher. As one goes down to the other end of the reliable hechsher scale this chance rapidly diminishes. Given the availability of good hechsherim around, why play Russian Roulette with Kashrus?

  2. akuperma says:

    A concealed identity in a products liability suit suggests something out of the ordinary. Depending on which court they are in, the attorney was required to swear that the claim appears reasonable, meaning a disciplinary action could be brought against the attorney.

    The question YWN we should be asking is whether this was brought by frei Jews as part of their anti-orthodox movement, or perhaps by a rival hecksher?

  3. UKbloke says:

    I’m impressed with the speed and transaprancy with which they answered the political attack.

  4. something2say says:

    is this a news article or a promotion piece? i hope they’re paying ywn something for their marketing.

  5. lazerc says:

    horray for Hebrew Nat. I used to eat their stuff 40 years ago when I lived in the US of A. I know that even then, there was a ‘campaign’ against them.

    There are those forces in the charadi world that love to spread rumors, and when dealing with kasruth, rumors that one hears from a friend can stop a purchase and ruin a company.

  6. mark levin says:

    5. Stop trying to be moreh heter for what you did before you knew better. I had a kashrus issue with them some 20 years ago, before they were Tri-k certified, because I was “in the right place at the right time” and I will tell you NO reputable hashgocha would have allowed what they wanted me to do.

    R’ Aryeh Ralbag seems to be trying to improve on the reputation of the agency and he is to be commended. Let’s hope one day soon their kashrus standards will be on a mainstream level.

  7. 2pence says:

    #5, indeed. That is how competition who “doesn’t play by your rules” is often stamped out in the kashrut world. It’s very mafia-like, and decidedly NOT holy.

  8. Avraham says:

    Kosher Consumer Alert:
    The “Triangle K” is NOT among Kosher-certification agencies recommended as reliable by the Chicago Rabbinical Council ( http://www.crcweb.org/agency_list.php ) and others.

  9. lkwdmama says:

    #5= The lawsuit was initiated by eleven disgruntled individuals, most of whom aren’t even Jewish, who all admitted they don’t keep kosher. It has nothing to do with Chareidim.

  10. 1818 says:

    fact is in my community, most frum people do not buy products with a traingle k hechsher. not because of any specific information but simply because it has a reputation of a not to be trusted hechsher
    I for one would like this to change as there a number of products I would like to buy with this hechsher

  11. akuperma says:

    #5- When Hebrew National, after an ownership changed, switched to Triange-K, it was a major upgrade of its kashruth, which has previously been considered very dubious.

    Since Triangle-K is openly zionist it’s unlikely any Hareidi hecksher would see them as competition. So it will be interesting to see who brought the suit, and their motives.

  12. Moose613 says:

    #11
    Zionist does NOT mean not frum.

  13. TorasMosheEmess says:

    While I firmly believe there MAY be something more to this lawsuit than meets the eye, there are some statements herein that, with all due respect to R’ Ralbag, aren’t quite kosher.

    Twice in the opening paragraph (and implied eslewhere) R’ Ralbag refers to the plaintiffs as “anonymous” or “identities concealed.” This is not the case. I found their names and a copy of the actual complaint in under 10 minutes on google. They are: Melvin Wallace, Shirley Hardt, Lewis Simpson, William Cobb, Erica Davis-Holder, Rotem Cohen , Julian Wagner, Rose Wagner, Erin Stilwell, Maria Eugenia Saenz Valiente and Adam Burnham.

    Second, while I certainly respect R’ Ralbag defending the reputation of Tri-K, the fact is that the suit does NOT allege that Hebrew National isn’t kosher at all, but rather that it does not meet it’s OWN advertized claim of kosher “as defined by the most stringent Jews who follow Orthodox Jewish law.” Since R’ Ralbag himself admits that HN products are stam rather than glatt, wouldn’t he be compelled to admit that this allegation is essentially true?

    Keep in mind that neither R’Ralbag, Tri-K nor anyone employed by or associated with Tr-k is named as a defendant, only Conagra/HN. There is no allegation that HN products are not kosher and the suit specifically states that they are NOT asking the government define what is or is not kosher. While this MAY be a back-door attack on kashrus, it appears to be nothing more than deceptive trade practices suit. As stam is, definitionally, LESS stringent than glatt, the claim that
    HN is the “MOST stingent” is, prima facia, deceptive.

  14. boruch b says:

    obviously the real plaintiffs behind it are anonymous and not the 11 names of goyim who signed the class action.
    if you read the staement carefully r ralbag states clearly that there were over the years shochtim who were fired and seemingly this is a revenge plot about $.

    as per non glatt, i dont know if you are right, i can easily see a case being argued as this is the most stringent for orthodox being that kosher according to the rama is exactly that. deceptive not quit, they dont label it glatt that anyone that wants that custom is being deceived

  15. apushatayid says:

    “a higher quality product.”

    They are buying hot dogs, what part of the animal do they think is ground up and stuffed into the plastic tubing they will lather up with mustard and relish and stick into a cheap bun.

    But, this is America, land of the lawsuit. Can’t wait until the lawsuit and all its specific points of complaint are revealed.

  16. TorasMosheEmess says:

    #14

    As I stated, there MAY be more to this than meets the eye. However, your statement that “obviously the real plaintiffs behind it are anonymous…” is NOT so obvious as this claim in utterly unsubstantiated and is therefore nothing more than pure speculation.

    Further, the claim that the “real plaintiffs” are disgruntled former employees out for revenge money falls flat: unless you are a NAMED plaintiff, you can’t be awarded any damages, so there is no “revenge money” for them to get. What is more, if they are disgrunted ex-employees of Tri-K, why are they suing HN and NOT Tri-K? How does winning an award from HN get revenge on Tri-K?

    Let us assume tho, for the sake of argument, that the basis of this suit IS the testimony of disgrunted ex-employees: then their identities WILL be disclosed through a legal process called “discovey.” Surely R’ Ralbag is aware of this.

    I feel compelled to add that R’Ralbag’s complaint that the plaintiffs are just “11 consumers, none of whom claims to keep kosher” is rather silly when you consider that HN markets it’s products almost exclusively to the general consumer (goyim) rather than to frum Jews (who, generally — and especially in the chareidi world — won’t buy HN). Again, R’Ralbag is surely aware of this as well.

    My opinion is that this is a nuisance lawsuit: the plaintiffs (and their attorneys) are hoping that HN/Conagra will just throw some money at them to make them go way. R’Ralbag overreacted and, in doing so, substantiated the plaintiff’s claims that HN is NOT the “most stringent.”

    Open mouth, insert foot.

  17. boruch b says:

    maybe they figured revenge would be if hn cant handle the negative rep that franks not kosher as news outlets are reporting this sensational headline, and they are hoping that hn will switch hashgacha, i doubt it would happen but can defenitely be part of scheme. did rabbi overact just the opposite if this is the headlines a kashrus agency has to respond if not shtika kehodo so in my opinion he did the right thing by pointing out its kosher by all purposes

  18. apushatayid says:

    The hot dogs are certainlý kosher for the non jews who are buying them.

  19. something2say says:

    18# – no reports of ‘eiver min hachai’ then?

  20. TorasMosheEmess says:

    #17

    And maybe it’s PETA that’s secretly behind the suit. Or maybe the conservative movement with their “hechsher tzedek.” Or maybe it’s hamas thinking by undermining HN that will stem the flow of zionist money flowing to Israel or… or… or… or maybe the suit really has merit.

    I am curious about one thing: paranoid delusions and wild speculation aside, have you actually READ the complaint?

    BTW, did you know that HN advertizes that Triangle-K is “a symbol of integrity, representing the most trusted and reliable name in strict rabbinical food certification and supervision.”

    Most trusted? REALLY? I don’t know ANYONE, chareidi or modox that trusts Triangle-K. This is not to say NO ONE trusts them. I am sure there are. But “most trusted?” C’mon. However, the suit does not allege that HN isn’t kosher but rather that HN does not live up to it’s OWN advertised standards (“most trusted” “most stringent”).

    If you had read the complaint, you would know that.

  21. boruch b says:

    just read the report, and hear where you are coming from.. the claim keeps on saying not “the strictest kosher etc”.

    however two points, 1) news outlets are basically reporting non kosher dogs, like some finkel maseh,
    that clearly we know its not and hence r ralbag stating clearly how the kashrus and hashgacha w shochtim etc is set up and strictly enforced etc makes alot of sense to refute that impression.

    2) as per the “strictest kosher etc” claim in the suit, i am not a lawyer but i can totally see defense saying no one is beig mislead if it doesnt say glatt, which the kosher consumer defines as more strict, but rather strictest kosher according to non glatt as labeled, meaning strictest regular kosher
    just my thoughts

    it does seem as u wrote that “this is a nuisance lawsuit: the plaintiffs (and their attorneys) are hoping that HN/Conagra will just throw some money at them to make them go way”.

  22. Jeff L. says:

    unlike #21, I am a lawyer, as #20 (same author as #13) suggests, I read the complaint.

    The first thing that needs to be pointed out is that (according to the complaint) HN never claims to comply with the “strictest standards of Kashrut” (ie glatt); rather, HN claims to be “100% kosher as defined by the most stringent Jews who follow Orthodox Jewish law”. This may seem to be semantic, but it is not: per the Rema (whom extremely stringent Ashkenazi Jews follow), non-glatt meat can be by definition 100% kosher. The stringency is on “who” defines what is kosher, not the level of the kashrus itself. Thus there is absolutely no misleading.

    Non-yeshiva-educated consumers who don’t know what Kosher really mean might not grasp that subtlety, but that does not make the “100% Kosher” statement misleading.

    Of course the complaint muddles the distinction as well so it’s hard to blame any of the posters here for not realizing it. In paragraph 62 of the complaint (probably other places also) the plaintiffs make the jump from “stringent jews” to “strictest standards”. (and they hope the court won’t notice).

    As an aside, #8, my understanding is OU and other agencies on the CRC list will regularly certify glatt that is not Beit Yosef as Kosher. Thus even amongst Mod Orth and even more yeshivish crowds, the “strictest standards” are not necessary. Chassidishe Shchita, anyone?

    The complaint has other serious issues (aside from the fact that none of the plaintiffs allege to have first hand knowledge of any violations) for example (not an exhaustive list):

    Complaint paragraph 75-77 refer to animals not being properly inspected for cuts, bruises, illnesses etc. But as we know (shach on Shulchan Orekh YD 39:1 – I saw this athttp://www.myjewishlearning.com/practices/Ritual/Kashrut_Dietary_Laws/Kosher_Food/Meat/Glatt_Kosher.shtml) we can generally assume that animals are healthy (except for the lungs). I don’t think the drafter of this complaint has Smeicha – certainly not as illustrious as the Rabbis Ralbag.

    Complaint paragraph 84 suggests that halakha requires an air compressor as part of bedika. Really, plaintiffs? that’s what Rav Yosef Karo was doing? he plugged in his air compressor into the electrical outlet and flipped the switch? Really? I’m not a rabbi, but I don’t think so.

    My favorite part of the complaint though, was paragraph 67, where it says: “The term ‘Kosher’ or ‘Kashrut’ is derived from the Hebrew word ‘Kashrus’”. I’m not sure that this is the right place for an ivrit vs. ivris discussion, but I found that quote to be hilarious!!!

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