The New York State Kosher Law

April 4, 2005

New York State has passed a law titled the NYS Kosher Law Protection Act of 2004 (Agriculture and Markets Law, §§ 201-a, 201-b and 201-c) (the “Kosher Law” ) . This law requires that any food product being sold in New York State when bearing a kosher symbol be registered with the state for inclusion into a New York State consumer web database. The state’s public data base will include the name and address of the company as listed on the label, brand and product name, and certifying agency.

This law has broad reaching implications for the food industry. As of the writing of this article, many facets of the Kosher Law, and more particularly, it’s enforcement, have not yet been interpreted or applied by the New York State Division of Kosher Law Enforcement (the agency responsible for enforcing the Kosher Law). Nonetheless, utilizing the information currently available to us, this article will illustrate the basic requirements of the Kosher Law and how to comply with them.

It is important to understand the goal of the Kosher Law, namely that the New York State consumer have at their disposal a clear, accessible database where they may obtain complete Kosher information regarding any food product sold as kosher in New York State. To this end, the Kosher Law requires that all products being sold as kosher in New York State be registered with the state by the party responsible for bringing the product into the State. There are no limitations as to who may register a particular product. As a result, either the manufacturer, label company, wholesaler, or retailer may submit the registration forms. In fact, several large retailers and label companies have placed the onus of registration squarely upon their manufacturers. These retailers and label companies are requiring the manufacturers to register all products (not just those sold in New York State) so as to avoid liability should the product eventually be sold in New York State.

Which products need to be registered? There are two basic categories addressed by the Kosher Law. All food products need registration, regardless of how they are categorized. The first category is termed “Packaged Foods” in the Kosher Law. As represented by the New York State Division of Kosher Law Enforcement, this category includes “foods not intended for sale at the point of manufacture that is packaged in advance for retail sale such as canned foods, condiments, and meats packaged prior to being received at the retail store.” As the Kosher Law is consumer oriented, every brand and label sold in New York State must be registered even if the identical product has been already registered under a different brand or label name. For example, if a pickle manufacturer sells sliced dill pickles to twelve label companies, then each label must be independently registered. So too, if the pickle manufacturer sells multiple products to one label company, each product type must be registered separately. It is not sufficient to register “assorted pickles” if the actual product labels bear different product descriptions. The second category is termed “Non Pre-Packaged foods” in the Kosher Law and includes. “food that has not been packaged in advance of retail sale such as bulk nuts, bakery goods, and fresh meat, restaurant and deli foods wrapped by the seller at the request of a customer.”

Packaged and non pre-packaged foods have similar registration requirements, in that information about the person or entity certifying their products as kosher must be provided. They differ in that registration for packaged foods must include information about the specific packaged goods being sold while non pre-packaged foods need not include such information. Lastly, caterers and food establishments such as restaurants and “take out” delis have to post a sign at the point of sale which describes various aspects of the establishment’s certification and food preparation such as frequency of Kosher inspections etc.

Registration forms may be downloaded at the New York State Division of Kosher Law Enforcement’s website at http://www.agmkt.state.ny.us/kosherform.asp. Electronic registration information is also available at the above website. Registration may be tedious (as previously mentioned, each and every product label must be listed separately, even if the identical product, manufactured under a different brand or product name is already registered). We are pleased to inform you that the Orthodox Union, in conjunction with the New York State Division of Kosher Law Enforcement, has arranged to register products of it’s certified companies on behalf of these companies. The registration will only be done upon the written request of the companies. A letter has been mailed to each company contact explaining the procedure which should be followed for such registration. Please note that the Orthodox Union can only register packaged foods in this fashion.

Questions regarding the Kosher Law may be directed to the New York State Division of Kosher Law Enforcement. Their phone number is 718.722.2852.