How will they label “Basar Lavan?”

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Arutz-7 reports that “As of today, food may not be sold in Israel without being marked as either meat, dairy or pareve (neither milk nor meat).”

A new law to this effect passed its third and final reading in the Knesset today. It was originally proposed by MK Uri Ariel (National Union) as an amendment to the Kashrut law. The original law provided only that a food billed as Kosher carry the name of the authorizing rabbi, rabbinate or Kashrut agency.

“The Ministry of Trade could have merely issued a directive requiring the new markings,” MK Ariel said, “but it did not do so. The Merchants Union complains that many Kashrut-conscious consumers refrain from buying certain foods because they are not marked as dairy or pareve. The new law will help consumers avoid the problem of whether to buy a food because of the fear that it may contain milk or meat ingredients.”

Obviously the law only affects Kosher products. In Israel, pork is euphemistically referred to as Basar Lavan, “white meat.” If the Knesset’s new law requires that all food sold in Israel be Kosher, subdivided into meat, milk and dairy, I’ll be more than a bit surprised.

Otherwise, this is also a law of limited value; though it’s a safe bet that all the religious parties voted in favor — how could an Orthodox Knesset member vote against better Kashrus? — it’s interesting to note that it was proposed by a Knesset member from the National Union, a right-wing political party.

First of all, it is likely to lead to a bit of ridicule, because by law Coke will now need to have a label reassuring you that there is no meat or milk contained therein. [News flash: Coke has nothing of nutritional value, ok? Both meat and milk have nutrients, while Coke has water, salt, and an alarming amount of sugar.] I have yet to hear of the consumer anywhere who has ever reconsidered buying spices or vegetables because they might be fleishig (meat). I suppose you could bathe Brassica oleracea in milk and still sell it as 100% frozen broccoli, but I don’t think anyone at Green Giant has thought it worth marketing.

And that leads to the second point, which is that Kashrus agencies live on their reputations. If the Star-K were to fail to label a dairy product as dairy, it would negatively impact the extent to which Kosher consumers would trust them. People who sincerely care about Kashrus will, in any case, expect milk and meat products to be properly labelled, or they will stop trusting the agency, stop buying products certified by that agency, and the companies affected will turn to more trustworthy sources for their certification.

The original Kashrus law ensured that products labelled as Kosher actually are, by requiring that the certifying Rabbi or agency be identified. That’s a valuable law. Here in America, we can’t even manage a legal requirement that such a Rabbi or agency actually exist — the courts have done a great job of confusing truth in advertising with religious entanglement; New York has a new law now to circumvent this problem. But this new Knesset law seems a little too bureaucratic. Perhaps I’m mistaken, and it will be very helpful, but it doesn’t seem that way.

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7 Responses

  1. Stephen B. Rozen says:

    It is interesting to note that during the legislative process, another M.K. proposed that they also list if the product if vegetarian. As we all know, fish is neither meat nor dairy and cheese can also contain animal rennet and still be deemed Kosher — even though there are quite enough vegetarians that might object to actually eating it.

    In any case, the Knesset committee voted against this proposal — deciding to limit this law strictly to meat, milk or neither.

  2. Eliezer Gamerman says:

    “First of all, it is likely to lead to a bit of ridicule, because by law Coke will now need to have a label reassuring you that there is no meat or milk contained therein. ”

    Don’t be so quick to laugh. The kashrus history of Coke includes that fact that it originally contained animal by-products (in addition to that obvious cocaine-thing).

    When Rabbi Geffen, who was the first rabbi to provide a hechsher for Coca Cola, was given the list of ingredients, he discovered that one of them was glycerin made from non-kosher beef tallow. When they changed the fomula to plant-based glycerin, he agreed to give as hechsher.

  3. Toby Katz says:

    I also know someone who served milchig ice cream after a meat meal — having somehow missed what you would think would be the obvious fact that ice cream is milchig. This was after the OU created its OU-D designation but before they started using that D designation for “obviously” milchig foods like butter and milk — not so “obviously,” obviously.

  4. Yaakov Menken says:

    Moshe, I think it could easily be said that all the ridicule that might emerge from this is in the category of “pesayim yikashlu bam,” fools will stumble in them. And that is obviously all worth it if one woman is prevented from mistaking pareve “butter-flavored” margarine with real butter.

    In other words, touche — for her sake alone the law will help!

    But couldn’t they have made an exception for Coke and Pepsi? :)

  5. mb says:

    I suppose you could bathe Brassica oleracea in milk and still sell it as 100% frozen broccoli, but I don’t think anyone at Green Giant has thought it worth marketing.

    No you couldn’t. FDA labelling laws demand ALL significant ingredients be listed, down to parts per million.( Even when some are combined under the rubric of natural flavourings, if any are significant, the source has to be declared.) Just info, nothing to do with your post.

  6. Moshe says:

    I think there is a very good reason for this law. In Israel, there are many people who are ‘masorati’ – they eat kosher, but they are not too strict about their observance (ie as long as it has any hechsher, they will eat it). However, they are very strict to only eat items that have a hechsher. If they see an item that has ‘dairy’ or ‘meat’ marked on it, they will be careful not to mix it with meat or dairy food, respectively. If it is not written on the package, there is a good chance they will miss it and cook milk and meat together.

    I’ll end with a personal anecdote:
    My wife has a baalas t’shuva friend, and she once saw her greasing her meat pan with butter (T’nuva, with the hechsher of the Badatz eidah chareidis). My wife mentioned that the butter was milchig, and she looked at my wife in shock. She thought that the butter was pareve, as there were no markings whatsoever that it was milchig – and it didn’t have ingredients listed on the package. Obviously, most people realize that butter is milchig, but she thought that it was butter flavored margarine or something of the sort, as there were no dairy markings…

  7. Netanel Livni says:

    it’s interesting to note that it was proposed by a Knesset member from the National Union, a right-wing political party.

    He is a frum Jew and lives in Beit El.