Hebrew National hot dogs not kosher, lawsuit claims

Hebrew National—the hot dog maker that has long claimed to "answer to a higher authority"—is being sued by a small group of consumers who say the company's meats are falsely advertised as kosher.

According to Reuters, the lawsuit filed by 11 people in Minnesota against Hebrew National owner ConAgra Foods Inc. claims the company misled them in placing the "Triangle K" symbol on products that did not cut the mustard, so to speak, when it comes to standards for kosher labeling.

ConAgra, they say, was then able to charge premium prices for nonkosher meat.

AER, the Skokie, Illinois-based company that supervises the kosher slaughtering process, "did little or nothing" to address complaints that the meat processed for ConAgra was nonkosher, according to the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs, who are seeking unspecified damages, want class-action status for all Hebrew National U.S. consumers over the last four years, according to the news service.

AER dismissed the claims as baseless. And ConAgra, which also owns Chef Boyardee, Healthy Choice, Peter Pan and Reddi-wip, said its hot dogs are kosher.

"While we can't comment on pending litigation," ConAgra spokeswoman Teresa Paulsen said in a statement on Monday, "we stand behind the quality of Hebrew National and its kosher status."

On its website, Hebrew National explains the "kosher difference":

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—so artificial flavors, colors, fillers, and by-products simply don't make the cut.

Hebrew National proudly serves products under the kosher supervision of the internationally recognized Triangle K organization. So, not only do Hebrew National franks have only the purest ingredients, but there is rabbinical supervision of the food preparation process and packaging equipment.

And what is "Triangle K" supervision?

The Triangle K symbol is a trademarked logo that signifies "kashruth" (kosher) as defined by the most stringent Jews who follow Orthodox Jewish Law. It's a symbol of integrity, representing the most trusted and reliable name in strict rabbinical food certification and supervision.

"We're not saying that they're passing off pork as kosher products," Hart L. Robinovitch, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, told the American Jewish World. "We went through the different elements and the different requirements for meat to be considered kosher. ... And based on our investigation, there were certain things that weren't conducted properly, in a systematic way—from the way cows were slaughtered, to the way the lungs were inspected or not inspected for imperfections—as is required to meet the standard that the meat is 100 percent kosher."

"This is an invisible fraud," Robinovitch told Reuters. "How does a consumer who thinks he is buying kosher meat really know he is buying kosher meat? It's a very, very difficult thing for a consumer to detect, unless someone investigates."