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State cutting kosher food inspectors

Kosher food inspectors for New York State will find themselves out of work beginning on January 1, 2011, leaving the borough and the rest of the state without government-regulated kosher standards, said State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky.
Stavisky slammed the layoffs.
“Unfortunately, these cuts would undoubtedly mean that untrained Agriculture and Markets inspectors would monitor kosher food, resulting in little or no protection from fraudulent products,” said Stavisky.
She noted that these eight inspectors earned about $45,000 to $50,000 annually and were not ideal targets for budget cuts. The layoffs would save $800,000 from the $10 billion deficit, she said.
Aaron Mosheyev, a manager at the Briarwood Glatt Kosher Meat Market, felt that having inspectors is important, but said that they do not rely on a rabbi or government inspectors to ensure their food meets kosher standards.
He said that workers at the store make sure their food is kosher themselves and do not rely on a rabbi or government inspectors. Mosheyev noted that they cut their meat with knives and extract the veins, whereas non-kosher markets may simply electrocute their meat.
“This is cleaner meat than other meat,” said Mosheyev.
While meat shops and similar vendors may have their own workers and rabbis trained in preparing food according to kosher standards, Stavisky factored in the points of consumption.
A kosher food inspector who preferred to remain anonymous told her that he had found shrimp salad in the kosher food section of a supermarket. Jewish law prohibits consumption of fish that are without fins or scales.
The inspector said that Queens has many kosher establishments that need to be regulated. Otherwise, he said, it would become a “wild west,” where no one would be sure that what is truly kosher and what is not.
Another inspector, who claimed to have 40 years of experience in the kosher regulation field, told of a recently aborted shipment of calves purported as kosher, when they were not.
He also said that in the past year there were 40 violations in the city in which non-kosher items were sold as Passover items.
Stavisky said that even non-Jews are at a loss with the layoffs. She explained that many prefer kosher products because they are of a certain quality in terms of cleanliness and cut.
“You know what you’re getting,” said Stavisky.
Erik Kriss, spokesperson for the New York State budget division, said that after the layoffs, the Division of Food Safety & Inspection of the Department of Agriculture & Markets will take over the kosher division’s work. There, a rabbi will direct their operations in kosher verification.
In 2002, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the decision of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, when it struck down a kosher law enacted in 1915 aimed at preventing kosher labeling fraud, according to court documents. The law was deemed unconstitutional because it defined kosher food according to Orthodox Judaism standards, which the court saw as infringing on the separation of church and state discussed in the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The owners of a kosher meat store in Commack, Long Island claimed that the original laws alienated their non-Orthodox customers and promoted.
In 2004, a new law was put in place that acted as a consumer protection law, according to Kriss. He noted that after the inspectors worked to complete a registry of kosher-approved establishments. After that, because the inspectors could no longer actually inspect the food’s preparation, they were no longer necessary, he said.
“I’m not sure how having inspectors who can’t inspect things would help matters,” said Kriss.

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