Legal Headline Of The Day

Kosher hot dog case presents a real constitutional pickle

The case deals with the interesting question of whether or not a Federal Court should be able to rule on the question of whether or not a claim that food is “kosher” is correct, or whether this is an issue that only religious authorities can decide.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, Religion
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    Maybe the real question is whether its kosher for the court to be involved in this case at all. IMO as a “truth in advertising” case this is skating on thin ice. Isn’t any harm that’s been done religious in nature? That’s nothing for the civil courts to decide and I’m a bit surprised the case has been heard at all.

  2. Moosebreath says:

    Thanks, Doug, for letting us ketchup with this news. I know you relish these kinds of stories.

  3. DC Loser says:

    It’s all baloney.

  4. Matt Bernius says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    Isn’t any harm that’s been done religious in nature?

    The issue of the real work implications of Religious harm is a tricky one, but also one that tends to end up before courts more than you would expect. For example there are scads of prison cases that tend to get tied up in matters of religious harm (i.e. not being served Kosher or Hallal food, whether or not someone is forced to break a fast).

    All that said, ultimately, there are a bunch of fraud issues here, both in terms of customers and the Kosher boards.

    To put this a different way, I don’t see how this is different than being sued for selling non-Organic food as Organic. Arguably there will be little to no harm caused from a nutritional perspective. However, there is still an aspect of fraud.

  5. Gustopher says:

    The link doesn’t provide a good summary of the case, and I cannot find a nice succinct summary, so here goes:

    ConAgra required that their KosherVerifiers verify that at least 70% of the beef they inspect is kosher — presumably, the most kosher 70% of the beef, whatever that means. This is as opposed to a rule based system where the kosher-ness is determined by the processes by which the beef was handled.

    The plaintiffs argue that since the hot dogs are marketed as kosher, they should actually be made up of kosher beef. They bought food marked kosher, and paid a premium for it, so they are being harmed.

    ConAgra counters that it has as much a right to call something kosher as some rabbi (or presumably a talking rabbit, or any other entity, religious or otherwise). To require ConAgra to follow some sort of standards for what is and is not kosher violates their first amendment rights.

    The judge dodges the question and rules that the plaintiffs don’t have standing because some of the beef was kosher, and that one cannot determine if the specific hot dogs the plaintiffs purchased contained non-kosher beef.

    I’m a little surprised ConAgra has not gone with the “Our kosher hot dogs are satire” defense. That might be next.

  6. Hal_10000 says:

    I don’t think the Court can rule on this because there is a division within the Jewish community about the status of Hebrew National. The conservative movement accepts it as Kosher (since they now have rabbinical supervision at the plant), but the orthodox movement does not. I don’t think the Court should weigh in on whose tradition is correct. As long as it is labelled with the relevant authority (it is), it should be fine. If people won’t accept Triangle K, then don’t buy things with a Triangle K on them.

    Whatever is the case, they’ll continue to be the only hot dogs I’ll have in my house, even though I don’t keep kosher. They’re massively better than any other hot dogs.