Something’s Fishy / Snake-oil Salesmen

One of the major modern challenges in the field of Kashrus is that the business world has become more sophisticated and has developed hard to detect means of deception.  While the Kashrus agencies make use of modern technology in the observance of Kashrus, unscrupulous manufacturers make use of modern technology to increase their profits through deceptive business practices.

 

The FDA has done DNA testing on numerous fish samples and has found that specie substitution is rampant.  Larry Olmsted wrote a book “Real Food Fake Food,” and CBS 60 Minutes, the WSJ, and Consumer Reports Magazine have recently publicized these practices.  94% of red snapper is not really red snapper.  Tile fish (high mercury) and tilapia are often substituted for red snapper.  Approximately 1/3 of fish which is sold is mislabeled.  Substitution is prevalent in restaurants, as each time the fish is transferred to a new owner another opportunity for deception arises.  Approximately 95% of fish in the USA is imported, and as is well known many foreign countries turn a “blind eye” to deceptive business practices.  In the past many kashrus agencies relied on color to identify salmon.  The major agencies discovered that some companies were adding coloring to the flesh in order to make other types of fish appear to be salmon.  Many major agencies now require inspecting each salmon for scales.

 

To combat the deception our mashgichim check each fish for scales.  We require that a sizable skin tag be left on each fish so that it can be inspected for scales.  The mashgichim must check the skin tags for any anomaly because unscrupulous sellers have even tried attaching skin tags from one fish onto another.  Experienced mashgichim can detect such fraud with ease.

 

At one time many kosher consumers would purchase extra-virgin olive oil without a supervision.  Sadly, a large portion of the extra-virgin olive oil on the market is made by adding chlorophyll and flavoring to inexpenive types of oil.  Pure honey is often adulterated with corn-syrup.  American business people have a higher standard of ethics than business owners in many foreign countries, and American government agencies are more vigilant than most.  Therefore, imports from other countries are at an even greater risk of adulteration than products manufactured in the USA.  

 

The major Kashrus agencies employ experts with business experience and scientific expertise in order to keep current with industry developments.  Through AKO (Association of Kashrus Organizations), of which Keystone-K is a member, the Kashrus agencies pool their expertise and cooperate with one another for the sake of the Kosher consumer.