This is my attempt at blogging. I'm still learning about the blogging world, and this is my own personal study hall.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Kashruth Police

For a long time I've been wondering if the Triangle-K Hechsher is reliable or not. The reason for this is that I was told in high school, after years of eating Frito's and absolutely loving Funyuns, that it was no longer considered a reliable Hecsher, and I was given the following reason. Apparently there was some issue with the certifying rabbi passing away and his estate continuing to issue certification without actually dispatching anyone to check the manufacturing plants of the foods they were certifying as being Kosher.

This struck me as odd. I was young an naive and did not understand how presumably G-d fearing Jews could possibly cheat whole communities and attempt to deceive them for money-making purposes. I also did not understand how a major corporation could be fooled by some smooth-talking "rabbi" who claimed that his certification would be universally accepted, when in fact millions were rejecting it. Despite my reservations, my source was someone I deemed reliable and I accepted this rumor to be reliable enough to make me wary of the Triangle-K. (I have to admit, however, that it did take me a long time to give up Frito's barbeque corn chips, and even longer to give up Funyuns, which I still miss).

Over the years I have avoided any and all foods bearing the Triangle-K, treating them as if they had no Hechsher, and sometimes treating them as if they were actually Treif. This is in contrast to how I treated unlabeled foods, which could occasionally be deemed Kosher if a reliable rabbi said so personally. Even a plain K could be deemed Kosher if a local Va'ad listed the food in its newsletter. But for me, a Triangle-K was not only to be considered uncertified, but untrustworthy. Even if someone were to tell me that a certain product carrying a Triangle-K label were Kosher, I would be very hesitant to eat it, and I would feel very guilty when I did.

So I would only buy or eat products with a Triangle-K if someone very close to me, whom I considered very reliable, were to recommend it, AND if it were a very plain, minimally processed food, like frozen vegetables, and only certain brands that I was told were OK.

Lately, however, I have begun to wonder if this whole situation has not been resolved by now. After all, when I was first told of the alleged fraud of the proprietors of the Triangle-K label, it was nearly 10 years ago. This is quite some time. One would think that someone would have clued in the corporations to the problems with their Kashruth certification, and/or that someone would have sued somebody else over the problems and/or the allegations.

Recently I was in an uncomfortable position. I knew for a fact that Ocean Spray cranberry juices and other products carry a Triangle-K, and I even have close friends who eat and serve Ocean Spray cranberry products. These are people whom I trust, and at whose homes I eat. Until very recently I treated the fact that they serve Ocean Spray to mean that they simply were not aware of the questionable nature of the Triangle-K Hechsher, or that they knew something that I did not, and would simply not drink the juice or eat the product. Also, since it is something that is questionable, and not even close to being something I would consider a steadfast rule anymore, I would just not say anything, and continued to treat their home and their other foods as reliably Kosher.

So, here I was on a Friday, shopping for ingredients for some Shabbath dishes, looking for a can of whole berry cranberry sauce. I found a can of Ocean Spray, Triangle-K labeled, whole berry cranberry sauce. I called a reliable source - my mother - to ask what exactly was the deal with Triangle-K. My mother, to my dismay, replied that it was I who had informed her that Triangle-K was problematic to begin with. She also informed me that she often uses Ocean Spray jellied cranberry sauce WITHOUT a Hechsher at all, as that was sanctioned by either the local Va'ad or some rabbi she trusts (she didn't specify who told her it was OK, so I shouldn't really draw conclusions). In any case, she advised, the whole berry version WITH a Triangle-K could be no worse. So I bought it.

Since then I have done some research. Apparently, according to the Chicago Rabbinical Council (CRC), a nearly universally accepted and well regarded authority, any juices bearing a Triangle-K (or a half-moon K, which has been regarded as even less reliable by many as Triangle-K), other than grape juice or red grapefruit juice, are reliably Kosher. Canned vegetables under the Triangle-K (and half-moon K) are also acceptable, and the following quote comes from a letter released by the CRC in February of this year: "Canned FRUIT, except from China, does not need any supervision (except on Passover) as long as the only added ingredients are salt, sugar, corn syrup or water."

In case anyone is interested, I have heard several other rumors since beginning my research. One is that the Triangle-K allowed Little Debbie's cakes to be certified Kosher without Kashering their equipment after the OU had refused to do the same because that condition was not going to be met. The person who told me this also told me that he heard that this was a decision of the father and that the son was somewhat better. Another point that was made to me is that the Triangle-K certifies Wonderbread (and many other products that are deemed as not reliably Kosher by most Orthodox Jews), and several other breads that are dairy. There are two problems with this - one is that it is patently Asur (forbidden) to bake bread that is either dairy or meat, because of the confusion it might cause. This is a rabbinic decree that is centuries old. The other problem, which is WHY the first problem exists, is that they certify dairy hot dog buns.

My goal is not to find out what's good and what's bad under the Triangle-K label, but to get to the bottom of the controversy. This looks as though this may turn into an ongoing project, and I will post my updates as regularly as I am able.


Blogger boruch said...

You claim you heard a rumor 10 years ago that you heard the certifying rabbi passed away, well apparently that is all it was a RUMOR
since the certifying Rabbi is still living Father and Son.
So the same way people make up stories about funerals they make them up about reliability.
Anyways concerning Wonder bread i did something you havent done in all your research, i called up the Rabbi himself and asked him about the Dairy bread
he told me that firstly the amount is less then a sixtieth 1.6%
and they write triangle k d on the label so in reality it isnt dairy to fit the prohibition of dairy bread since it is batul, but they still label it dairy,
and a goy is alloud to be mevatel lechatchila and according to some shitas real dairy bread is permitted if it is labeled so,
and about the hamburger/frank buns that was the companys mistake and they were supposed to stop producing those with a hechsher,bassically al pi halacha it is all right
you dont have to eat it , but dont spread your slander without speaking first to the rabbi himself

12:59 AM

Blogger Art Berg said...

New to keeping kosher, I'm trying to get to the bottom of the triangle K controversy. I called the CRC; contrary to what you posted I was told that CRC does not accept triangle K for any products. However, the person with whom I spoke could not tell me why. I left a voicemail for one of the rabbis asking for more information.

What is the source of your information.

So far I have been unable to learn what specifically is wrong with triangle K. Has anyone performed an analysis of the products certified by triangle K? Does anyone have evidence that something is wrong? All I've gotten so far is rumors. I'd really like to get to the truth.

1:07 PM

Blogger Seth said...

Boruch, I'm not sure when you made your comment, as there is no date stamp, but I was reporting the fact that I had no reliable information. I was not "spreading ... slander".

Art, did you ask them about the product, or about the Triangle-K? If you asked about the product, they would tell you whether or not they consider it Kosher. If you asked about the Triangle-K, they may have instituted a policy, since I posted this years ago, not to issue opinions in order to avoid legal liability.

I did not call the CRC, but found a letter published by them giving guidelines for certain foods under other Hechsherim (certifications). I regret that I didn't post a link to it at the time I wrote this blog post, because I wish I could now go back and find it, and I cannot. They may have pulled it, or it may have sunk in Google page rankings.

Although there is this:

1:19 PM


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