As New York State begins training food safety inspectors to replace kosher law enforcement staff, reaction in the Jewish community is mixed.
Some are skeptical that the 85 inspectors, who are in charge of checking sanitary conditions at bakeries, warehouses, slaughterhouses and other facilities will be able to effectively police compliance with the state’s laws regarding disclosure of kosher certification standards.
In a joint statement, the Orthodox Union, Agudath Israel of American and the Rabbinical Alliance expressed appreciation that the inspections will continue but said they will “continue to monitor the effectiveness of the new enforcement program during the next few months to assure that like all consumers, kosher consumers can be assured that what is represented as kosher certified is indeed kosher.”
In an interview Tuesday, David Zwiebel, executive vice president at Agudah said “Clearly this will be one small slice of a much larger pie that these inspectors will have to worry about. You wonder how effective it will be. On the other hand it’s better than not doing anything.”
Gov. David Paterson, who stepped down on Jan. 1, terminated the state’s kosher inspectors last month as part of budget cuts. His successor, Andrew Cuomo, ordered the safety inspectors to be trained to take on their work by Rabbi Luzer Weiss, director of the kosher law enforcement division of the Department of Agriculture and Markets.
Outgoing commissioner Patrick Hooker said last week the change will “consolidate responsibilities and eliminate overlapping services … saving the State nearly $1 million, all while providing the same level of service.”
Rabbi Yosef Wikler, editor of Kashrus magazine, said the new system is “a futile attempt to confuse the public that something is being done. When you take a safety inspector and add another job onto his workload you won’t get the same commitment.”