Minnesota - Conservetive Heksher Tzedek Guidelines for Kosher Food Released
Minnesota - A group of Conservative rabbis has released long-awaited guidelines for a program that aims to monitor and certify working conditions in kosher food production.
The guidelines for the Hekhsher Tzedek program, as it is known, are wide-ranging, with sections devoted to labor standards, the treatment of animals, corporate transparency and environmental impact. In order to evaluate a company’s performance in those categories, the Hekhsher Tzedek commission will consider whether it is in compliance with a number of pre-existing industry and government standards, as well as some standards specific to the commission.
Rabbi Morris Allen, project director of Hekhsher Tzedek, told the Forward that he hoped to see the first wave of products endorsed with the commission’s hekhsher, or stamp of approval, by Rosh Hashana of next year.
“We believe that in the next month, we will be involved in serious discussions with players in the kosher food industry around these issues,” Allen said.
Typically, Orthodox rabbis have run kosher certification in the United States and have charged for their services. Allen suggested that there would be costs for companies that want a certification from Hekhsher Tzedek.
Allen’s commission formed in 2006 after a group of Conservative rabbi responded to complaints about the working conditions at the nation’s largest kosher slaughterhouse in Iowa. Since that plant was the target of a federal immigration raid this past May, Allen has been one of the most outspoken critics of the company, Agriprocessors, and its labor practices. In the background, Allen and his group have been putting together standards for the certification since winning the endorsement of the Conservative movement’s governing bodies last year.
KLD Research & Analytics — a Boston-based consulting firm that advises companies on socially responsible investing — helped to compile Hekhsher Tzedek’s guidelines and will assist the commission in analyzing a company’s compliance.
Many in the Orthodox world have been skeptical of Hekhsher Tzedek, arguing that ethical issues should not be tacked on to the age-old system of kosher laws
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