Five Towns Chicken Scandal? Not Really.
the question is this...are you going to have the courage to report on the chicken sacndal brwing [sic] right here in Cedarhurst.....?Now, anyone who has been reading this blog for a while might be aware of the fact that I don't lack courage for this sort of story. That said, the alleged "scandal" is actually far from a scandal. The Jewish Star, a local Jewish paper that has been vastly improved under a recent change in editorship, has the complete scoop here (front page, top-right item).
Apparently, a local kosher supermarket, the Gourmet Glatt Emporium, was discovered to have been packaging and selling kosher chickens under the labels of a different kosher brand. An investigation was done, and the mislabeling was determined to have been nothing more sinister than a clerical error, and all the chickens in question were from reliable hashgachas that are approved by the Vaad. However, in light of the error, and due to the busy atmosphere of the store and the potential for this type of mislabeling to occur in such a setting, the Vaad Hakashrut of the Five Towns decided to impose a new labeling system for Gourmet Glatt chickens, which would not allow for individual labeling according to brand at all when repackaging meat to be placed in the refrigerated display cases, though Gourmet Glatt states in the article that they will continue provide specific brands upon individual customer request.
The Vaad issued a statement on the episode:
After a thorough inspection of Gourmet Glatt of Cedarhurst was made, the Vaad Hakashrus discovered that a mislabeling indeed ocurred between the Empire label and another reputable kosher chicken company.
The mislabeling was verified by the Empire poultry Company after a consumer complaint. Empire independently investigated this matter and concluded that it was not their product.
No kashrus violations took place.
We have immediately directed the store to change their labeling procedure so NO company name appears on the label of their meat and poultry products.
So the new system seems to address the problem. But even though according to the Vaad, all was in order as far as the chickens being kosher, and there are assurances (in an adjacent Jewish Star article) that there is good enough Kashrut oversight here to prevent a situation similar to what recently occured in Monsey, the fact that this can happen at all gives me pause. For example, I have a close family member who only eats KAJ chickens. Whenever that relative is going to be eating in my house, I specifically purchase chickens labeled with that brand, sometimes from Gourmet Glatt. Though to me, it doesn't make much of a difference which brand of chickens I eat, to this family member, it does. So I have to imagine this news of the mislabeling error will cause a good bit of chagrin to at least some community members who had been relying on the labeling system Gourmet Glatt had been using, even with the Vaad's assurances that all certified chicken is safe in the Five Towns.
The only questions not really answered is whether this policy will be extended to the other, equally "busy" local kosher supermarkets that are mentioned in the article, who repackage different brands of chickens in the same manner as Gourmet Glatt did. Is this new policy an indication of a lack of faith the Vaad has specifically in Gourmet Glatt's capability to label chickens properly, or an indication that the repackaging system simply can't remain reliable enough in a large-scale operation? If the latter were the case, we would expect to see the new policy extend to all local supermarkets - which the article does not seem to indicate.
But why not? Shouldn't the new policy extend to all large repackaging operations? Or did Gourmet Glatt lose their chance to reliably repackage on a large scale by messing up once? Anyone have any clue?