Is it the משגיח’s fault?

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    There is a lengthy process involved when certifying a restaurant as kosher. Typically the רב המכשיר and at least one field manager will interview the owner, visit the location, and review the menu. Many organizations will require a written presentation of the menu and the work flow, similar to a HASAP plan. If the organization decides to certify the restersunt, the רב המכשיר will determine the level of supervision required and specific procedures that must be followed.
    Every case I be e seen reported of a failure to detect a breach in koshrhs was the result of a failure of the koshrus agency to implement adequate safeguards.
    In the latest case, the fact that purchase orders and deliveries weren’t reviewed and compared against inventory borders on neglect.
    But that is the failure of the koshrus agency.
    Headlines that imply that the iמשכמח failed are a convenient way of glossing over the problem.


    The mashgiach is the agency and he is assigned to an establishment and should be totally responsible. I am not sure why the poster is drawing some distinction.


    @ Moshe The onsite משגיח provided the level of supervision stipulated by the agency.
    Access, hours, auditing, and review are all determined by the רב המכשיר. If thag system fails it is the fault of the agency.
    However if the onsite משגיח is corrupt or completely negligent, then he would be to blame. Even in that case though the agency should have a review in משגיחים it employees are following instructions and doing their jobs properly.
    The distinction is demonstrated in the latest failure in NJ. No one has suggested that the onsite משגיח was bribed or not following agency guidelines. The agency simply didn’t anticipate the issue or have controls on place to prevent it.
    The headline should read “Failure of Prominent Koshurus Agency” instead of “משגיח was fooled.”


    Exactly how do you suppose “purchase orders and deliveries” can be “reviewed and compared against inventory” in a restaurant? Is the mashgiach supposed to go into the fridge every hour to count the chickens, calculate how many have been used since he last checked, and see if there’s an extra one or two that shouldn’t have been there?!

    Remember that this case is supposedly about an owner smuggling in *small quantities* of treif, on many occasions over a period of months. He walks in with a bag containing two chickens, perhaps already cut up, and when nobody’s looking he dumps them into the bucket or whatever where the chickens currently being used are lying. How is the mashgiach supposed to detect that?


    100% agree.


    @ Milhouse Let’s say that restersunt operative at a relatively low margin, and the threshold to justify the risk of losing certification is a reward of 2 percent of gross revenues.
    Throwing around very rough numbers, lets say that to break even a small restaurant needs to bring in $30,000 in revenue per month to break even.
    In this hypothetical case, the relatively “small amount” would be around $600 worth of chicken, or 20 cases of non kosher chicken breast per month.
    Unless the owner was snuggling drumsticks into the store in his boxers. If so,


    ymr: You’re building in too many assumptions. A goy might risk it even if it wasn’t “worth the risk” on an actuary table.

    Dr. Pepper

    As with everything in life- there’s a risk involved and the risk has to be calculated to determine the level of risk one is willing to take. As a simple example- say someone takes out an insurance policy for $1,000,000 and the company needs to know how much cash to keep on hand in case the person dies. It would be foolish to say that they’re not going to hold anything “because it’s such a small chance that the person will die”, while on the other hand it wouldn’t be profitable to hold the entire $1,000,000. An actuary can calculate the perfect amount to set aside but ultimately (regardless of whether the actuary did the calculation properly) the company is responsible to pay the claim. If the company can’t pay out it’s ultimately the policy holder who will suffer for not choosing a reputable enough company.

    From what I understand there weren’t too many details disclosed regarding what went wrong with the restaurant in question. From a risk point of view the certifying agency has to determine the amount of risk they are willing to take (from simply taking the owners word for it and having no supervision to having armed guards, metal detectors and raw chicken sniffing dogs stationed 24/7 at each point of entry). So unless it can be proven that משגיח didn’t follow his responsibilities 100% he shouldn’t be held responsible and regardless of that outcome the certifying agency needs to take responsibility.

    If someone is trying to circumvent the controls (e.g. locks where the owner isn’t given a key, alarm systems where the owner doesn’t have the code, surveillance cameras that someone externally is monitoring…) it’s going to take a lot to stop them. You’d be surprised at the covert things we’d come up with in high school. How long do you think it took us to remove the doorknob on an empty classroom and replace it with an exact replica? We then had all afternoon to impression a key for the lock and swap it back in to the door. How long do you think it took someone to climb into the drop ceiling near the alarm wire for a particular door and stick a staple or safety pin through the alarm wire to bypass it? And the surveillance camera- it was easily blocked with streamers and balloons for a supposed birthday party. When the principal came the next day he had no idea that some late notes were taken from his drawer (unless he counted them before he left and recounted them when he came back).

    Were there additional steps that could have been taken? Sure! Have each doorknob affixed with tamper proof screws, have end of line resistors installed on the alarm system, have a security company monitor the camera and send someone out immediately if it gets blocked. There also could have been motion sensors and heat sensors installed in his office. But ultimately it comes down to making a calculated decision on the proper amount of precautions that are needed. And the consumer has to decide if they have enough trust in the agency that they have the proper level of control.


    Restaurant business has a very low profit margin and high risk of failure. So, probably, yetzer hara to use something cheaper is very high. Still, how often do we have failures like that? Halakha often uses “rov”, not absolute guarantee. Maybe if you buy 3 chickens from 3 different restaurants and then mix you up, you can go by rov?!


    So you’re saying the agency does not require the mashgiach to check on the kashrus of the meat that comes in? That there is just some assumption it is OK? Is that how hashgacha works? How can you eat anywhere then?


    There is a fundamental economic issue operative here. Without mentioning names, many of us have been to restaurants where the mashgiach seems to be bored, disinterested, sitting at a corner table with a sefer, etc. rather than being fully engaged with the owner and kitchen staff, cross-checking deliveries with kitchen inventory, randomly checking security video etc. While I assume most are knowledgeable about dinei kashruth, they lack minimal forensic skills to check all the obvious ways in which the rules can be gamed by the ownership. Most restaurant owners already complain about the burdensome costs of current hashgacha. Recruiting the much higher level of expertise (including some basic computer and accounting skills) would require compensation levels that are simply unaffordable under the current business models of most hashgachos.


    @ Gadol I’d add that the modern trend toward a “working משגיח” isn’t helpful.
    Anf we need to keep in mind that commercial Koshurus standards are higher than what people keep at home. If someone can go without ever asking a רב about their own kitchen, they are not doing kosher right.


    How did we do hashgaha in the old system? All stories about R Zusya and his brother traveling and staying in inns. Presumably, they ate at those inns. Maybe some erliche yidden would like to open restaurants and people who know them from shul will vouch for their honesty with having an yid wasting his time sitting in the corner of the restaurant looking at other people eating?


    By definition, it was the משגיח’s fault. If the food was poorly coooked, you would blame the chef. If the restaurant was filthy, you would blame the manager in charge of keeping it clean. If the food is treff, you blame the משגיח.

    It doesn’t help that a kosher restaurant hired non-frum people (secular Jews or goyim) as employees. And if any non-frum people had a ownership interest that is ever worse. But the bottom line is that the משגיח is responsible.


    The mashgiach is supposed to sign and check invoices on all incoming deliveries. All incoming meat is suppose to have the proper simanim. The issue with this restaurant is that the mashgiach was used as a cashier and phone operator, in the front of the restaurant, without having a line of sight to the back door. A sneaky owner would wait for the mashgiach to go to the men’s room and bring in chicken or meat cut up in a shopping bag, and mix it in with a tub or container of already cut up meat. Or if there is a basement where they wash vegetables, the owner would do this while the mashgiach is downstairs washing vegetables.

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