Hevesi and Members of the Jewish Legislative Caucus Urge Commissioner Aubertine to Re-Instate Kosher Food Inspectors

January 24, 2011

Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi and members of the New York State Chapter of the National Jewish Legislators today sent a letter to Commissioner Darrel Aubertine calling on him to re-instate a portion of the kosher inspection unit that was eliminated by Governor David Paterson in 2010.

“We feel that this population must continue to be protected,” Assemblyman Hevesi said. “The best way to ensure that our kosher standard is protected and maintained is to have trained, highly skilled enforcement staff regulating the industry.”

Hevesi was joined by Assemblyman Lavine, President of the Jewish Legislators, as well as Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, Senator Liz Krueger, Senator Carl Kruger, Assemblyman Bing, Assemblyman Cymbrowitz, Assemblyman Hikind, Assemblywoman Jacobs, Assemblywoman Jaffee, Assemblyman Lancman, Assemblyman Maisel, Assemblyman Miller, Assemblywoman Miller, Assemblywoman Paulin, Assemblywoman Pheffer, Assemblywoman Schimel, Assemblywoman Weinstein, Assemblyman Weinsenberg, and Assemblyman Weprin.

Assemblyman Lavine, President of the New York Chapter of the National Association of Jewish Legislators, said, “"It is unfair to an entire community to deny the placement of appropriate kosher food inspectors that ensure the food they eat meets the very specific standards of their beliefs. Reinstatement of a portion of this unit will be at minimum cost to the citizens of New York State, and will go a long way towards protecting the integrity of food in the free marketplace for the consumer.”

Senator Toby Ann Stavisky said, “The eight inspectors are essential in protecting the integrity of the kosher certification process. I spoke with an inspector and He described how he found shrimp salad in the kosher section of a supermarket. Who is going to make sure that hot dogs containing pork products don’t wind up next to the Hebrew National ones?”

Governor David Paterson laid off 898 state employees as his term came to an end. Included on these layoffs were the last remaining kosher food inspectors, formerly employed by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. The department once had 11 kosher inspectors.

The elimination of the jobs will save an estimated $1 million a year in salary, benefits and services, such as computers and cars, according the department.

Commissioner Darrell Aubertine
10B Airline Drive
Albany NY 12235

January 18, 2011

Dear Commissioner Aubertine:

We would like to begin by offering our congratulations to you on your recent appointment to Commissioner of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. We are confident that this agency and the citizens of the State of New York will greatly benefit from your leadership, much in the same way your constituents and the State as a whole did from your representation in the legislature.

As you are aware, the remaining nine employees in the Department of Agriculture and Markets Kosher Food Inspection Unit were laid off effective January 1, 2011. This department, which once employed eleven inspectors, has now been, by definition, eliminated. This unilateral action taken by our former Governor at the end of his term has left a crucial gap in service and protection of millions of New Yorkers that rely on kosher certification for their religious dietary needs.

Eliminating kosher food inspectors makes New York State’s kosher community vulnerable to potential fraud and abuse in relation to kosher certification. Products packaged with a kosher label, such as cuts of meat, are subject to rigid and very specific religious rules in order to qualify as kosher products. Only an inspector with an understanding of kosher laws and rules would be able to differentiate between authentic and fraudulent kosher goods. The Department’s inspectors had the knowledge and training necessary to make these distinctions. Without them, there is a complete lack of enforcement, which is simply not acceptable.

We, the undersigned, respectfully request that you restore several kosher food inspectors to preserve the sanctity of certification for this religious community, as well as other New Yorkers that choose to follow this practice.

While we recognize that the budget crisis New York State faces is daunting, it is our hope that we can work together to restore several of these positions to the Department of Agriculture and Markets to ensure that this industry is held to the proper standard.