As noted in a prior post, the top label claim for new food products in 2011 was “kosher.” Given other recent trends, it was thus not surprising that a class action lawsuit has now been filed alleging that Hebrew National‘s hot dogs and other meats are misleadingly labeled because they do not comport with the brand’s claim to be kosher “as defined by the most stringent Jews who follow Orthodox Jewish law.”
The class action complaint was filed last month in Minnesota state court but was recently removed to the U.S. District Court for Minnesota by Defendant ConAgra Foods, Inc., which owns Hebrew National. Plaintiffs’ claims include negligence, violation of the Nebraska Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act, violation of the Nebraska Consumer Protection Act, and an alternative claim for “Violation of State Consumer Protection Laws” to the extent the court requires subclasses for plaintiffs from different states. See full complaint here.
Lead plaintiff’s counsel is Minneapolis-based Zimmerman Reed which sought out plaintiffs through a website which asserted:
Hebrew National sells the most well known kosher hot dogs in America, producing 720 million hot dogs each year. Hebrew National claims that it adheres to the highest standards of quality, and its hot dogs are marked with the “Triangle K” – a mark Hebrew National says is a “symbol of integrity.” Unfortunately, our firm has received troubling reports that some slaughterhouse plants supplying Hebrew National with its beef may not be upholding the strict kosher standards Hebrew National promises. Workers are threatened with losing their job, or demotion, if they speak up and try to point out violations of the kosher food laws.
According to the Jewish Telegraph Agency, Triangle-K, which certifies Hebrew National’s meats as kosher, has called plaintiffs’ claims “outrageously false and defamatory.”
Just recently, Hebrew National website issued the following statement on its website:
In light of the recent lawsuit, we want to assure our fans that we stand behind our kosher status. Hebrew National products are kosher, and this lawsuit is without merit. Hebrew National’s kosher status is certified by a well-recognized and authorized third-party. There is close rabbinical supervision of the food preparation process and packaging equipment. For more than 100 years, Hebrew National has followed strict dietary law, using only specific cuts of beef that meet the highest standards for quality, cleanliness, and safety with no by-products, artificial flavors, or artificial colors.
It will be interesting to see whether plaintiffs have any religious authorities who are willing to testify on their behalf. The case is Wallace et al v. ConAgra Foods Inc, U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, Case No. 12-01354.