Kashrut certification pulled from PA West Bank factories over ‘security concerns'

For food to be marked as kosher, it must be certified as such by the Chief Rabbinate.

Supermarket. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Several food factories based in Palestinian-administered areas of the West Bank whose products are certified as kosher and are imported into the Israeli market have lost their kashrut certification since the beginning of the year because the security situation in those areas has prevented kashrut inspectors from conducting regular inspections.
Factory owners, however, argue that there has been no change in the ability of inspectors to gain access to the food plants.
Several food factories in the Nablus industrial zone produce kosher food products that are subsequently brought into Israel, similar to kosher food items imported from other parts of the world.
For food to be marked as kosher, it must be certified as such by the Chief Rabbinate though other kashrut-licensing authorities can provide supervision services as long as they do not use the term “kashrut.”
The Ayesh Tehina factory, owned by an Israeli company and based in the Nablus industrial zone has been operating for many years. It is supervised by the “Badatz Hatam Sofer” kashrut-certification authority with the approval of the Chief Rabbinate, but the Chief Rabbinate kashrut certificate was not renewed at the beginning of 2016, and the owners were not informed about the cessation of the rabbinate’s approval.
The factory owners state that kashrut inspectors have always been able to arrange inspection visits to the factory via coordination with the relevant military and security authorities and that this capability to conduct inspections remains unchanged.
Ayesh Tehina says the ingredients of the raw tehina are extremely basic, and that there have been no substantial changes in the ingredients or in the product’s preparation.
Additionally, cameras installed in the factory provide an additional means of kashrut supervision without the necessity of an on-site inspection, the factory owners argue.
Attorney Aviad Hacohen who is representing the factory, says the decision not to renew the kashrut certification has caused monetary damage to the business, a loss of customers and damage to the product’s reputation.
The Chief Rabbinate responded that spot-inspections by kashrut inspectors were an important tool in ensuring that food manufacturers remain vigilant in upholding kashrut standards.
It argued that, the fact that inspections need to be coordinated ahead of time with the factory and the security authorities means the efficacy of kashrut supervisor inspections is much more limited, and that, on this basis, it could not renew the kashrut certification.
The Chief Rabbinate did not explain, however, why the policy had changed from previous years.