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Kosher certifier sues trucking firm; Says Thornton hauler misused agency's mark by Paul MerrionDecember 13, 2004Crain's Chicago Businesspage 12, Volume 27; Number 50The Chicago Rabbinical Council Inc. says it wasn't legal, let alone kosher, for a Thornton-based bulk food ingredient hauler to misuse its approval by the Jewish certification agency. The dispute highlights the intricate and competitive business of making sure that kosher food, as defined by biblical law, maintains those standards along every step of a food processing industry that's grown far more complicated than it was in ancient times. In addition to lost revenues from the alleged failure to pay for kosher certifications, one of the Chicago Rabbinical Council's biggest concerns is that its reputation as one of the leading kosher certifiers in the country could be damaged by the actions of a small player in the food chain. ``They are conscientious and careful,'' says Avrom Pollak, president of New York-based Star-K Certification Inc., a large, non-profit kosher certification agency. ``They want to make a statement that this is not going to be tolerated.'' SUIT FILED LAST MONTH In a federal civil suit filed Nov. 17, the Chicago-based non-profit overseer of the ``CRC'' kosher symbol alleges that over the ``last several years or more'' it was ``common practice'' for Illini State Trucking Co. to scan the CRC certification into a computer and alter it for use on trucks that had not been certified for kosher use. The lawsuit alleges fraud and violations of federal and state trademark law as well as the Illinois Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Illini, which lost its kosher certification from the council, hasn't filed a response to the suit yet. ``Right now I don't have any comment-not until I get it sorted out,'' says Illini President Lawrence Bult. ONE OF BIGGEST U.S. CERTIFIERS Among hundreds of non-profit and for-profit kosher certification organizations, as well as individual rabbis who certify foods, experts say the Chicago Rabbinical Council is among the five or six largest in the U.S. According to its Web site, the council has hundreds of food and ingredient company clients, such as Sara Lee Corp., Archibald Candy Corp., Dunkin' Donuts, Eli's Cheesecake and 7-Up, a unit of London-based Cadbury Schweppes plc. Illini hauled bulk kosher commodities between manufacturers of ingredients and end products, but only one is mentioned in the suit: Officials at Italy's Parmalat SpA, a large food manufacturer with several cookie plants in the Chicago area, did not return calls seeking comment. The Chicago Rabbinical Council, which represents more than 120 Orthodox Jewish rabbis in the Chicago area, is asking for remedies including either $1 million in statutory damages for each allegedly improper use of the mark or three times the organization's actual damages, which it does not state in the suit. At least one meeting between the parties took place last week, but Lawrence Benjamin, an attorney for the council, said in an e-mailed statement: ``I don't think it's accurate to say there are `settlement discussions.' The CRC is very interested in sending a message regarding the gravity of this offense and making sure that no one makes the same mistake.'' While seeking to uphold the law and send a strong message to the trucking industry, ``we want to do the right thing according to Jewish ethics and morality'' as well, says Rabbi Sholem Fishbane, the council's Kashruth administrator (``Kashruth'' refers to the observance of Jewish dietary laws). ``The last thing I want to do is put a guy out of business.'' COUNCIL ALLEGES RECORDS FALSIFIED In addition to alleging violations of its trademarked ``CRC'' symbol, the council alleges that it was duped by falsified records that Illini kept on what products its kosher-certified trucks had hauled. In at least one case, according to the suit, Illini ``lied'' to a truck-washing facility that cleaned trucks for kosher use. The firm allegedly said the truck had hauled sucrose after it had hauled tallow, a non-kosher food, which would have required more rigorous cleaning-using unrecycled water heated to at least 200 degrees Fahrenheit-before it could be used to haul kosher foods again. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Don't be fooled
http://www.crcweb.org/Alert.html CRC AlertEffective immediately, the cRc is no longer giving hashgacha to Illini State Trucking. Please notify the cRc office immediately, if any of your establishments have in the past or are currently using Illini. Please inform all kosher establishments under your supervision to stop using Illini to ship product, and all shipments received from companies using Illini should be refused, unless and until Illini obtains a kosher certification acceptable to your kosher establishments. If you have any questions regarding this issue, please call the cRc office at 773-465-3900.
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