Food distributor pleads guilty in falsely labelled kosher cheese case
By Sue Tiffin
Published August 8, 2017
Fake kosher cheese distributed to Camp Northland-B’nai Brith (NBB) in Haliburton led to a landmark case in which a Woodbridge food distributor pleaded guilty to violating the Food and Drugs Act in June. Creation Foods was ordered to pay $25,000 for misrepresenting a kosher food product, the first case of its kind to be brought before a provincial court in Canada.
“The fine is significant and may lead to improved future compliance under this statute,” reads the prosecution bulletin on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) website. “This case, and the conviction, reinforces the CFIA’s commitment to food safety, and demonstrates how the agency takes issues related to food fraud seriously. Investigation and legal action will be taken, when warranted.”
The falsely labelled cheese was delivered to two strictly kosher Jewish summer camps – Camp NBB, and Moshava camp near Peterborough in 2015. A Kashruth Council of Canada employee designated as a kosher certification supervisor noticed the cheddar delivered to the Peterborough camp by Creation Foods did not have a kosher symbol on its packaging. The letters COR surrounded by an oval is the kosher certification trademark for the Kashruth Council of Canada, a non-profit that certifies about 1,000 businesses across Canada. When the supervisor questioned Creation Foods, the distributor of the cheese, a representative said there had been a mistake in the packaging but offered to produce a kosher certificate for the food. The certificate was quickly ascertained to be forged, and Richard Rabkin, managing director of the Kashruth Council of Canada said the cheese delivered to NBB was also seized and authorities were contacted.
Food labelled as being kosher, which means “acceptable” or “proper,” must be made to meet requirements of the Kashruth, or Jewish dietary laws. To make kosher cheese, the enzyme used to coagulate the cheese must be from a vegetable source. A rabbi must pour the rennet into the mixture and be present for the duration of the production of the cheese.
“There are a lot of things that are either kosher by nature or very simple from a kosher perspective,” said Rabkin. “Cheese is on the more complicated side of the spectrum.”
Rabkin said the camps were fully in compliance, and that “99 times out of 100,” food manufacturers comply with kosher programs. He applauded the diligence of the CFIA and Canadian judicial system in demonstrating their willingness to protect kosher consumers.
“There’s an expression, ‘you are what you eat,’ and I think all Canadians take that expression seriously, but kosher consumers, we do in particular,” said Rabkin. “We feel that if you eat something that’s not kosher, it affects you deeply. So if I were to make an analogy, let’s say there was a summer camp that was a nut-free camp, and let’s say all the kids had nut allergies, and someone intentionally sold something that had peanuts in their products to this camp. That’s basically what it would be like for us but in a spiritual way.”
According to the Camp Northland-B’nai Brith website, thousands of Jewish kids and young adults have attended the summer overnight camp on Haliburton Lake Road since 1942.