Chicago, IL - CRC: Illinois Milk Legislation A Prelude To Greater Federal Kashrus Stringencies
Chicago, IL - Newly enacted legislation signed recently by the governor of Illinois may be just the first step in a greater movement to ensure the kashrus of all milk sold in the United States.
For many years the Food and Drug Administration’s Pasteurized Milk Ordinance only allowed milk from cows, sheep, goats and water buffalos to be called milk, and milk that came from any source other than a cow had to be clearly labeled as such. According to Rabbi Yona Reiss, Av Beis Din of the Chicago Rabbinical Council, the federal definition of milk was changed relatively recently, creating potential complications for the kosher consumer.
“The problem is that originally the federal statute didn’t define milk from a camel as milk, it was prohibited according to federal law,” Rabbi Reiss told VIN News. “In recent years, commercially produced camel’s milk has been introduced and people have been promoting its health benefits. As a result, federal legislation was modified to include camel’s milk.”
The revised Pasteurized Milk Ordinance allowed for milk from any mammal with hooves, including pigs and camels, to be classified as milk, although the federal law outlined strict labeling requirements for all milk and milk products not derived from cows.
“The common name of the hooved mammal producing the milk shall precede the milk for all milk or milk products when the product is or is made from other than cattle’s milk. As an example, “Goat”, “Sheep”, “Water Buffalo” or “Other Hooved Mammal” milk or milk products respectively.”
Illinois’ adoption of the federal regulation that allowed for milk of any hooved mammal to be classified as milk was cause for concern because, unlike the federal law whose labeling specifications afforded some protection to the kosher consumer, it included no requirement to identify what kind of milk was being used in milk or milk products.
“It was pointed out to us and we sprang into action,” said Rabbi Reiss who worked hand in hand with Senator Ira Silverstein and several others including representatives of the Agudah to draft legislation that would protect kosher consumers who rely on government regulation to consume non cholov yisroel milk. “What we made sure to do was to incorporate the federal labeling requirement into the Illinois statute to make it absolutely clear that it would be a violation to mix any camel’s milk into cow’s milk and to ensure that the state would follow the federal government’s labeling laws for milk.”
Rabbi Sholem Fishbane, kashrus adminstrator at the CRC, noted that while federal labeling requirements are important, legislation on the state level will be even more effective.
“This is much more enforceable when it is state law over federal law,” explained Rabbi Fishbane. “There is much more state involvement on the local dairy farms.”
While Illinois may be the only state to have adopted its own labeling requirements regarding the origins of milk, Rabbi Fishbane said that kosher consumers throughout the United States have no reason to be concerned that there is milk from a non-kosher hooved animal mixed in with their cow’s milk.
“Truthfully in any other state you don’t have to worry because of the federal law enforcing proper labeling,” said Rabbi Fishbane.
The Illinois legislation is the initial salvo in the greater plan to have the federal government restore its original definition of milk, according to Rabbi Fishbane. As the executive director of the Association of Kashrus Organization, an umbrella organization that unites over 75 kashrus agencies nationwide, Rabbi Fishbane hopes to be able to enact change on a much larger level at the next scheduled meeting.
“My goal is to get together at that meeting, where everyone in the room has some connection to someone on the federal level,” said Rabbi Fishbane. “Let’s pool our resources and get the federal government to restore milk to its original definition by taking out those four words, ‘any other hooved mammal.’”
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