Continuation of a Cautionary Kashrus Chronicle (with full permission of all parties)
…And so, we have a take-out food seller who produced the food offsite, with a hechsher whose modus operendi allowed for arranging the hashgacha to “follow the food” to its destination, where it was sold.
Then, one day, Mr. Takeout makes a business decision. He’ll produce the food offsite less expensively, and instead of continuing with this particular hashgacha, he would continue using only ingredients approved by that very agency, and sell the food at the selling site (let’s assume he was trying it out to see what would happen). He conscientiously took down the te’udot of the agency he had been using, and started selling.
People came in and bought food as they had been accustomed to during the previous weeks, many of them their complete Shabbos meal. After a while, someone caught on that the teudot were missing and asked the merchant. He said, as many a food seller says (and he pointed to a [smallish] sign in Hebrew which also said), “Don’t worry, kol hamotzrim Eidah, all the ingredients are under the Eidah hechsher.” One hears that sentence often, with many food purveyors going so far as to say, “Yes, I have such and such a hechsher,” when really only the ingredients are Badatz — and you only know this based on his say-so. I know of cases where a person hires a caterer for an affair, with the caterer stating yes, he is “Badatz,” and the customer finds out too late “what he meant.” So what do you then tell your guests? Talk about nisyonos!
In our particular story, the teudot were absent, and the customers, discovering that the food that week was not under any hashgacha, slowed to a trickle; soon the trickle flowed in the opposite direction — people were bringing their food back for a refund. (To the vendor’s credit, he returned their money. In my opinion, choshen mishpat did not obligate him to, as there were indeed no teudot on the walls, there was even a sign, and he answered all questions honestly and openly. But return it he did — very wisely.)
The story thus far is not unusual. There are many food vendors, many of them small-home-grown businesses, who sport no teudah and claim kol hamotzrim Badatz. Whoever trusts them should realize that they are trusting them, that there is no hashgacha (so what do you do if you have guests?). There are also chain stores for which the main store carries the hechsher, but a branch does not. Sometimes there is a letter stating that the food, where it is made, has a valid hechsher; one must realize that there is not a word there about the place where it is being sold.
Back to our story. The fact that he barely had any customers, and those he did almost to a man (well, a woman) returned the food, is a testament that consumers in RBS-A have learned their lesson well! Yeyasher kochachem!
The poor vendor “did not know what hit him” but knew that he must get a hechsher (to be fair, perhaps he was always planning to get one). He received one from a badatz in the area where the food was now being produced. And he thought the matter had rested.
But no, it did not. An alert reader will notice the missing (kosher) ingredient! The hechsher was for the food prepared “there,” but what about here, where it was to be sold? How do we know that A (the food there) equals B (the food here)? A person may decide to trust the seller (he is a frum person), but again, there is no hashgacha!
At first the vendor was adamant that this should be sufficient. Whereupon he was told, okay, but it’s your business’s funeral. The olam in RBS-A has proven itself to be kashrus-educated, and if another week goes by without a proper hechsher governing where it is sold… there will not be a third week for you!
The local badatz there, who were resisting a hashgacha-system governing delivery from point A to point B and having their teudah reflect that, were told in no uncertain terms that they are performing a disservice to their “customer” — that what was being planned was the equivalent of having no hechsher. They were convinced, and a member of that local badatz “rode shotgun” with the food, from point A, and was actually physically present at the site, point B, to answer questions.
All’s well that ends well, no?
No. In point of fact I am not perfectly happy. Depending on when you read this, the situation either did or didn’t change for the better, for what existed last Friday is not ideal. The official teudah on the wall is flawed, as it attests only to the food at point A. A live mashgiach on the premesis a) would not be known to all, and the public is thus being educated to “not care” about a 100 percent teudah; b) I doubt that presence of a live mashgiach can be maintained week after week after week; and c) at some point, people will stop looking for “that guy with the long beard” and will rely on the habit of buying there.
We’re trying to change this; the teudah should always reflect the hechsher reality. This is a far-ranging principle, which has ramifications for fruits and vegetables (where the teudah often states that the hechsher does not cover bug-infestation, only terumos and ma’asros), for chalavi and besari eateries (everything in the store, even pareve stuff, is b’chezkas…); and for food establishments where the teudah is only partial (this teudah only covers the dried fruit, not the candies being sold here, or this teudah does not cover the packaged food in the store).
Time will tell; the consumer must always be vigilant. Here was a perfect set-up: a trusted, Chareidi-looking man, selling Shabbos food from a hall in a shul, week after week. And yet come one Friday, there’s no hechsher! And the next Friday would not have been all that much better, without our insistence. And as of the writing of these words, the situation is, in my opinion, flawed.
May Hashem guard us in our attempts to keep kosher, and may we all continue to be diligent over the foods we eat.
To be continued…
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