Saturday, December 19, 2009

STEVIA & Lactic Acid= DAIRY

Breaking News on Food & Beverage Development - North America
Lactic acid improves stevia flavor, says Purac
By Caroline Scott-Thomas, 15-Dec-2009
Related topics: Flavors and colors

Purac has become the latest company to release a natural flavor masker to help drinks makers deal with the reported bitter or licorice-like aftertaste sometimes experienced with stevia sweeteners.

The company’s Purac Fit Plus ingredient is made from natural, purified lactic acid and Purac says that it can mask off-flavors associated with stevia, as well as with other high intensity sweeteners.

Category manager of taste and acidification at Purac Koen Kummel said: “Masking comes naturally with Purac Fit Plus. Carefully choosing your sweeteners and acids to deliver the optimal sour/sweet balance greatly improves the taste of beverages containing stevia (Reb A).”

Reb A is a high purity extract of the stevia plant, used in stevia sweeteners such as Truvia, PureVia and Good & Sweet.

Purac claims that its lactic acid ingredient works particularly well in combination with citric acid.

“The resulting beverage has a round, well-balanced taste and the flavor is boosted, leading to potential savings due to reduced sweetener and flavor usage,” the company said.

Purac, which has its headquarters in the Netherlands as well as offices around the world – including the United States – will make Fit Plus available globally. France became the first European country to approve the use of Reb A at a minimum of 97 percent purity in September.

In the US, almost as soon as the Food and Drug Administration’s non-objection that Reb A was GRAS (generally recognized as safe) was announced last December, flavor companies stepped up, with bitterness blockers, flavor maskers and sweetness extenders. Purac’s lactic acid is the latest in a long line of potential flavor solutions for manufacturers.

Other options

Sensient Flavors released its customizable flavor ingredient Smoothenol for use with stevia-sweetened products in May and Cargill launched a range of flavor maskers and sweetness enhancers for use with the sweetener in April.

Back in February, Givaudan said that it was in the process of applying for patents related to what it claimed was its discovery of the bitter taste receptors triggered by the sweetener – technology that would form the basis of its flavor solutions for stevia.

Other flavor firms, including Symrise and Comax, have also developed ranges of bitter blockers, flavor maskers and sweetness extenders specifically for use with stevia. And Reb A supplier PureCircle joined with flavor company Firmenich in January, in order to capitalize on the ingredient’s potential as a flavor enhancer, as well as to speed its commercial use by using Firmenich’s flavor masking and sweetness enhancing technologies.

Copyright - Unless otherwise stated all contents of this web site are © 2000/2009 - Decision News Media SAS - All Rights Reserved - For permission to reproduce any contents of this web site, please email our Syndication department: Administration & Finance - Full details for the use of materials on this site can be found in the Terms & Conditions

© 2000/2009 - Decision News Media SAS - All right reserved.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Olive Oil FRAUD

Hannukah-revelers beware - your olive oil may not be as pure as you think -By Uzi Silber

What better time than Hanukkah to advise olive oil aficionados to beware: that bottle of extra virgin olive oil may not be as pristine as labeled.

On a recent visit to a Lower East Side supermarket, most of the displayed bottles of extra virgin (popularized as EVOO by the cheerful food icon Rachael Ray) are Italian, Spanish or Greek imports ranging from $10 to $15/liter, with one brand on sale for about $7. One's understandable inclination would be to reach for the bargain. And why not? Doesn't extra virgin always mean extra virgin?

Well, as it turns out, not really.

First, what makes EVOO any better than, say, mere virgin? According to Steve Horton of Red Island Australia (kosher) Olive Oil, the arduous manufacturing process of EVOO is as much science as art; by definition, its olives must be pressed within hours of harvest. European standards (usually followed internationally) stipulate that the fruit used for pressing into EVOO exhibit an acidity level below 0.8%, as compared to the 2% allowed for merely virgin oil, with higher levels permitted for cruder grades such as so-called pomace oil which is often used in restaurants. Acidity, fermentation, oxidation and ultraviolet levels all rise as olive freshness declines.

EVOO should boast a rich olive green color, thin consistency (for effective coating and cooking), subtle sweetness and faint peppery aftertaste. And each bottle should contain nothing but 100% EVOO.

The EU instituted its standards to confront a continental olive oil industry that was notoriously rife with fraud. In a 2007 article for The New Yorker, Tom Mueller exposed the scandal of olive oil adulteration in Italy, where some brands marketed as EVOO supposedly made from olives harvested and pressed in Italy actually contained concoctions of lower grade Turkish or Tunisian olive oil blended with cheap corn, soybean, canola, peanut, cottonseed or hazelnut oils.

Batches of phony oil have been found to contain rancid olives, often contaminated by dirt and even manure. Processors of this swill often use chlorophyll dye and artificial additives to disguise its awful taste, and are frequently capable of actually mimicking the look and flavor of real EVOO.

EU standards do in fact pose challenges for would-be olive oil hucksters; Italy for its part augments European rules by deploying a platoon of official tasters to monitor its olive oil processors. Nevertheless, this is one tough global industry to police, and fake product has continued to find its way to supermarket shelves throughout Europe. Many shipments of fake EVOO have also appeared in the US where olive oil consumption increased eightfold from 1982 to 2006.

In 1995, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that of 73 olive oil brands tested only 4% were pure olive oil. Most included other vegetable and nut oils, while some bottle contained as little as 10% olive oil. A few years later the Canadian Food Inspection Agency studied 100 olive oils and found that 20% were fake.

Aside from criminality, adulteration represents a very real public health hazard: the nutty oils blended into the faux EVOO are a danger to those with nut allergies, while potentially poisonous contaminants could actually harm and even kill people as they have in Europe.

There's also another often overlooked issue: extraneous ingredients could render these fakes verboten for followers of kosher dietary laws.

Inspectors in Connecticut, California and New York have introduced EU-type consumer protection standards which make it easier for the authorities to issue penalties and carry out recalls. This incentivizes retailers to self-police by extracting more rigorous proof from wholesalers that the contents in the bottle match the label.

Meanwhile, bottlers may voluntarily submit their product for testing to receive an EVOO seal of authenticity from organizations such as the North American Olive Oil Association, while Californian olive oil producers are eligible for a seal from the California Olive Oil Association.

Still, it's a big country and inspectors can't be everywhere all the time which still allows unscrupulous importers to get their cheap, mislabeled oil sold at retailers such as dollar stores.

Phony oil can also find its way to high-end marketers, where large price discrepancies can raise suspicions. For example, one prominent retailer in the area recently displayed two brands of EVOO -- an Italian import for over $15 a liter and a house label priced at an eye popping $5. Is this a problem? Could be.

So how to ensure -- particularly on Hanukkah -- that an 100% EVOO label matches the oil in the bottle? Follow a few simple rules: splurge for a reputable brand (not necessarily Mediterranean in origin); avoid tin containers with inscrutable labels, and assume that if the price is just too good, the product may not be

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Jihad in the USA Hancock, NY


With Italian extra-virgin olive oil in high demand with concomitant high prices, adulterated olive oil has become the biggest source of agricultural fraud problems in the European Union. [1] Some oil labeled "extra-virgin" is diluted with cheaper olive oils or other vegetable oils. In some cases, lampante, or "lamp oil," which is made from spoiled olives fallen from trees, is used, even though it can't legally be sold as food. One fraud ring is accused of coloring low-grade soy oil and canola oil with industrial chlorophyll, and flavoring it with beta-carotene. [2]

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn't routinely test imported olive oil for adulteration, and some products are difficult to test.

An article by Tom Mueller in the August 13, 2007 issue of the The New Yorker alleges that regulation, particularly in Italy, is extremely lax and corrupt. Mueller states that major Italian shippers routinely adulterate olive oil and that only about 40% of olive oil sold as "extra virgin" actually meets the specification.[6] In some cases, colza oil with added color and flavor has been labeled and sold as olive oil.[7] This extensive fraud prompted the Italian government to mandate a new labeling law in 2007 for companies selling olive oil, under which every bottle of Italian olive oil would have to declare the farm and press on which it was produced, as well as display a precise breakdown of the oils used, for blended oils.[8] In February 2008, however, EU officials took issue with the new law, stating that under EU rules such labeling should be voluntary rather than compulsory.[9] Under EU rules, olive oil may be sold as Italian even if it only contains a small amount of Italian oil.[8]

In 1993, the FDA ordered a recall of Rubino U.S.A. Inc., (Cincinnati, Ohio) olive oils which were nothing more than canola oil. [3]

In 1997, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency began conducting tests on 100 oils that claimed to be 100% olive oil and in 1999 the CFIA concluded that 20 per cent of the oils were fake. [4]

In 2007, American supermarket chain ShopRite (United States) recalled certain olive oils after it was discovered that they were counterfeit.

In March 2008, 400 Italian police officers conducted "Operation Golden Oil," arresting 23 people and confiscating 85 farms after an investigation revealed a large-scale scheme to relabel oils from other Mediterranean nations as Italian.[10] In April 2008, another operation impounded seven olive oil plants and arrested 40 people in nine provinces of northern and southern Italy for adding chlorophyll to sunflower and soybean oil and selling it as extra virgin olive oil, both in Italy and abroad. 25,000 liters of the fake oil were seized and prevented from being exported.Forty arrested in new 'fake' olive oil scam - News

On December 22, 2008, the Guardia Civil in La Rioja (Spain) warned about the possible sale of adulterated olive oil in the area. This warning came after 550 litres of oil was found in a large container labelled ‘Astispumante 1510’ in Rincón de Soto and after the theft of 1,750 litres of oil was reported in the area on December 18, 2008. [5]

Adulterated oil is usually no more serious than passing off inferior, but safe, product as superior olive oil, but there are no guarantees. Almost 700 people died, it is believed, as a consequence of consuming rapeseed (canola) oil adulterated with aniline intended for use as an industrial lubricant, but sold in 1981 as olive oil in Spain (see toxic oil syndrome).[11]

[edit] Testing for purity
The detection of olive oil adulteration is often complicated with no single test that can accomplish the task. A battery of tests is employed to determine Olive oil authenticity and identity of the adulterant. Included in this testing regime is the determination of free acidity, peroxide value, UV extinction, fatty acid composition, sterol composition, triglyceride composition, wax content, steroidal hydrocarbons, and the Bellier test.[6] Test results are measured against the International Olive Oil Council trade standard to identify abnormalities. Each test provides key information which allows a decision to be made with respect to the grade of Olive oil and the identity of any adulterants.

For example, a test published in 1887 described the detection of olive oil adulterated with mineral oil by a simple titration of the carboxylic acid moieties present in natural vegetable oils. The procedure involved boiling 10 milliliters of olive oil with 40 milliliters of approximately 1 molar potassium hydroxide in 95% ethanol, adding water to 100 grams to dissolve the saponified lipids, and titrating against a normal sulfuric acid solution using phenolphthalein as a pH indicator dye. The base stock solution was titrated to neutralize an equal quantity of the acid, so without the presence of vegetable oil it would require 40 milliliters of acid to cause a color change, but in the pure oils tested (almond, benne, cottonseed, cod liver oil, linseed oil, and olive oil, only 6 milliliters were required. In accordance with this, olive oil adulterated with 10% mineral oil required 8 milliliters, and with 20% 11 milliliters. The adulterated oil tested in 1887 required 14 to 17 milliliters to neutralize, so it might have been 30-40% mineral oil.[12]

[edit] Simple home tests
[edit] Refrigeration
All polyunsaturated oil undergoes a process of rancidity once exposed to oxygen in the air. Monounsaturated and saturated fats will not get rancid. In the colder environment of a refrigerator, this process continues, but at a slower rate. As such, it has become common to refrigerate olive oils. When genuine olive oil is refrigerated, it should become more viscous, that is thicker if not nearly solid. Blended olive oils and non-olive oils posing as olive oil will not solidify when refrigerated, and so the refrigeration test is one (although not conclusive) way to test for purity.

[edit] Ignition
Pure olive oil should burn in an oil lamp. In December 2007, as certain Jews attempted to use what they thought was pure olive oil to light the menorah, they discovered it would not burn. New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) followed up by purchasing olive oil products and sending them to New York State’s Department of Agriculture and Markets, Division of Kosher Law Enforcement for testing. “The product I purchased last year, was marketed as 100% olive oil, but it wouldn’t burn. I lit the menorah, came back and it couldn’t sustain the flame,” said Hikind. “It seemed clear that the product was not pure olive oil but was adulterated. Consumers who pay for pure olive oil because they want to do the hiddur mitzvah should not be misled.”[7] The ignition test however, like the refrigerator test, is not conclusive.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Olive Oil FRAUD

Letter from Italy
Slippery Business
The trade in adulterated olive oil.
by Tom Mueller

Read more:
“Fraud is so widespread that few growers can make an honest living,” one expert says.

Tom Mueller: Beppe Grillo’s war on crooked politics in Italy.
Keywords Olive Oil;Riolio;Ribatti, Domenico;Italy, Italians;Scams;Fraud Investigations;ASSITOLOn August 10, 1991, a rusty tanker called the Mazal II docked at the industrial port of Ordu, in Turkey, and pumped twenty-two hundred tons of hazelnut oil into its hold. The ship then embarked on a meandering voyage through the Mediterranean and the North Sea. By September 21st, when the Mazal II reached Barletta, a port in Puglia, in southern Italy, its cargo had become, on the ship’s official documents, Greek olive oil. It slipped through customs, possibly with the connivance of an official, was piped into tanker trucks, and was delivered to the refinery of Riolio, an Italian olive-oil producer based in Barletta. There it was sold—in some instances blended with real olive oil—to Riolio customers.

Between August and November of 1991, the Mazal II and another tanker, the Katerina T., delivered nearly ten thousand tons of Turkish hazelnut oil and Argentinean sunflower-seed oil to Riolio, all identified as Greek olive oil. Riolio’s owner, Domenico Ribatti, grew rich from the bogus oil, assembling substantial real-estate holdings, including a former department store in Bari. He bribed two officials, one with cash, the other with cartons of olive oil, and made trips to Rome, where he stayed at the Grand Hotel, and met with other unscrupulous olive-oil producers from Italy and abroad. As one of Italy’s leading importers of olive oil, Ribatti’s company was a member of ASSITOL, the country’s powerful olive-oil trade association, and Ribatti had enough clout in Rome to ask a favor—preferential treatment of an associate’s nephew, who was seeking admission to a military officers’ school—of a high-ranking official at the Finance Ministry, a fellow-pugliese.

However, by early 1992 Ribatti and his associates were under investigation by the Guardia di Finanza, the Finance Ministry’s military-police force. One officer, wearing a miniature video camera on his tie, posed as a waiter at a lunch hosted by Ribatti at the Grand Hotel. Others, eavesdropping on telephone calls among Riolio executives, heard the rustle of bribe money being counted out. During the next two years, the Guardia di Finanza team, working closely with agents of the European Union’s anti-fraud office, pieced together the details of Ribatti’s crime, identifying Swiss bank accounts and Caribbean shell companies that Ribatti had used to buy the ersatz olive oil. The investigators discovered that seed and hazelnut oil had reached Riolio’s refinery by tanker truck and by train, as well as by ship, and they found stocks of hazelnut oil waiting in Rotterdam for delivery to Riolio and other olive-oil companies.

The investigators also discovered where Ribatti’s adulterated oil had gone: to some of the largest producers of Italian olive oil, among them Nestlé, Unilever, Bertolli, and Oleifici Fasanesi, who sold it to consumers as olive oil, and collected about twelve million dollars in E.U. subsidies intended to support the olive-oil industry. (These companies claimed that they had been swindled by Ribatti, and prosecutors were unable to prove complicity on their part.)

In 1997 and 1998, olive oil was the most adulterated agricultural product in the European Union, prompting the E.U.’s anti-fraud office to establish an olive-oil task force. (“Profits were comparable to cocaine trafficking, with none of the risks,” one investigator told me.) The E.U. also began phasing out subsidies for olive-oil producers and bottlers, in an effort to reduce crime, and after a few years it disbanded the task force. Yet fraud remains a major international problem: olive oil is far more valuable than most other vegetable oils, but it is costly and time-consuming to produce—and surprisingly easy to doctor. Adulteration is especially common in Italy, the world’s leading importer, consumer, and exporter of olive oil. (For the past ten years, Spain has produced more oil than Italy, but much of it is shipped to Italy for packaging and is sold, legally, as Italian oil.) “The vast majority of frauds uncovered in the food-and-beverage sector involve this product,” Colonel Leopoldo Maria De Filippi, the commander for the northern half of Italy of the N.A.S. Carabinieri, an anti-adulteration group run under the auspices of the Ministry of Health, told me.

In Puglia, which produces about forty per cent of Italy’s olives, growers have been in a near-constant state of crisis for more than a decade. “Thousands of olive-oil producers are victims of this ‘drugged’ market,” Antonio Barile, the president of the Puglia chapter of a major farmers’ union, told me, referring to illegal importations of seed oils and cheap olive oil from outside the E.U., which undercut local farmers. Instead of supporting small growers who make distinctive, premium oils, the Italian government has consistently encouraged quan-tity over quality, to the benefit of large companies that sell bulk oil. It has not implemented a national plan for oil production, has employed a byzantine system for distributing agricultural subsidies, and has often failed to enforce Italian laws and E.U. regulations intended to prevent fraud. The government has been so lax in pursuing some oil crimes that it can seem complicit. In 2000, the European Court of Auditors reported that Italy was responsible for eighty-seven per cent of misappropriated E.U. subsidies to olive-oil bottlers in the preceding fifteen years, and that the government had recovered only a fraction of the money.

Paolo De Castro, who was appointed Italy’s agriculture minister in 2006, told me that olive-oil fraud has been a problem in the past but that he was taking action to curb it. “In the past few years, we have tightened things up a lot, through our Inspectorate for Quality Control, and through our carabinieri corps,” he said. One problem is that Italian officials charged with detecting adulterated oil can, in theory, be held liable for their actions. “Who’s going to take this responsibility?” asked Lanfranco Conte, a professor of food chemistry at the University of Udine, who in the early nineties was the head of a laboratory belonging to the Agriculture Ministry’s anti-fraud unit. “If you decide to block three thousand tons of oil and it turns out you were wrong, you pay out of your own pocket.” Colonel De Filippi acknowledged that some companies are essentially immune to investigation. “Unfortunately, there are big producers who have strong political ties,” he said.

The olive is a drupe, or stone fruit, like a plum or a cherry. Most vegetable oils are extracted in a refinery from seeds or nuts, using solvents, heat, and intense pressure; the best olive oils are made using a simple hydraulic press or centrifuge—they are more like fresh-squeezed fruit juices than like industrial fats. The olives are harvested at the moment of the invaiatura, when they begin to turn from green to black; ideally they are picked by hand and milled within hours, to minimize oxidation and enzymatic reactions, which leave unpleasant tastes and odors in the oil. There are approximately seven hundred olive varieties, or cultivars, whose distinctive tastes and aromas are evident in oils that are made properly, just as different grape varietals are expressed in fine wines.

In the past decade, olive-oil consumption has risen thirty-five per cent in southern Europe, its traditional market, and more than a hundred per cent in North America. Much of the growth is due to the increasing prestige of the highest-quality olive oil, extra-virgin. (The European Union also recognizes several inferior grades, including virgin and lampante, or “lamp oil,” which is made from olives that have spoiled and fallen from trees, and cannot legally be sold as food.) In Italy, where most olive oil is labelled “extra-virgin,” competitions, public tastings, and “oil bars” have proliferated.

According to E.U. law, extra-virgin oil must be made exclusively by physical means (by a press or a centrifuge) and meet thirty-two chemical requirements, including having “free acidity” of no more than 0.8 per cent. (In olive oil, free acidity is an indicator of decomposition.) Virgin oil, the next grade lower, must have free acidity of no more than two per cent. Oil that has a greater percentage of free acidity is classified as lampante.

Most olive-oil frauds are easy to detect using chemical tests. In February, 2005, the N.A.S. Carabinieri broke up a criminal ring operating in several regions of Italy, and confiscated a hundred thousand litres of fake olive oil, with a street value of six million euros (about eight million dollars). The ring, which allegedly sold its products in northern Italy and in Germany, is accused of coloring low-grade soy oil and canola oil with industrial chlorophyll, flavoring it with beta-carotene, and packaging it as extra-virgin olive oil in tins and bottles emblazoned with pictures of Italian flags or Mt. Vesuvius, and with folksy names of imaginary producers—the Farmhouse, the Ancient Millstones.

More sophisticated scams, like Domenico Ribatti’s, typically take place at high-tech refineries, where the oil is doctored with substances like hazelnut oil and deodorized lampante olive oil, which are extremely difficult to detect by chemical analysis. In 1991, the E.U., recognizing that laboratory tests fail to expose many acts of adulteration, instituted strict taste and aroma requirements for each grade of olive oil and established tasting panels, certified by the International Olive Oil Council, an office created by the United Nations, to enforce them. According to the E.U. regulations, extra-virgin oil must have appreciable levels of pepperiness, bitterness, and fruitiness, and must be free of sixteen official taste flaws, which include “musty,” “fusty,” “cucumber,” and “grubby.” “If there’s one defect, it’s not extra-virgin olive oil—basta, end of story,” Flavio Zaramella, the president of the Corporazione Mastri Oleari, in Milan, one of the most respected private olive-oil associations, told me.

Zaramella, a garrulous sixty-six-year-old former businessman, has made oil from olives grown on his small farm in Umbria since 1985. He began to study olive oil systematically when he found that the local farmer who tended his trees had been cutting his oil with sun-flower-seed oil. “Fraud is so widespread that few growers can make an honest living,” he told me. Four recent operations for abdominal cancer have left him gaunt, but Zaramella still has plump, mobile hands and speaks in a mellow baritone. On a wall in his office is a map of Somalia, where, in 1987, as the head of a humanitarian-aid project, he supervised the construction of a high-tech hospital in Baraawe, a city on the Indian Ocean. “I got everyone working together: Communists, Catholic priests, Muslims, professors, illiterates, anyone with the will to get things done,” he recalled. Two months after the hospital was completed, it was destroyed in the civil war. “Generosity is the purest form of egotism,” he said.

Zaramella became the president of Mastri Oleari in 2000, and is devoting his remaining years to redeeming extra-virgin olive oil from fraud. He calls his fight for olive-oil quality a “civic responsibility,” both to consumers and to the many small producers who struggle to make a living in a market awash in cheap, counterfeit oil.

One morning last October, the Mastri Oleari’s olive-oil tasting panel—six men and three women—conducted a test of five premium oils, all known to be extra-virgin. The test was a training exercise, one of about twenty that the panelists perform each year to keep their tasting skills sharp. (The panel, along with nineteen others in Italy, recently lost its E.U. accreditation, after the International Olive Oil Council suffered budget cuts and decided that it would no longer certify panels run by private institutions.) The Mastri Oleari’s tasting room consisted of eight cubicles, which isolate panel members to prevent them from influencing one another’s judgments. (The panel leader, who coördinates the team, often does not taste the oils.) Each cubicle contained a sink, several tulip-shaped tasting glasses with lids to trap aromas, and a yogurt-maker with a thermostat, used to warm the glasses to twenty-eight degrees Celsius, the temperature at which the aromatic substances in the oil are volatilized, making it optimum for tasting.

By 10 A.M., the panel members had arrived, grumbling about having been deprived of their morning coffee and cigarettes, which are forbidden before a tasting, because they dull the senses. The group included, in addition to Zaramella, a thirty-three-year-old olive miller from Lake Garda and a forty-seven-year-old Tuscan marquess who worked as a personal motivation coach. After Zaramella’s assistant had poured the oil samples into the tulip glasses and warmed them, the panelists entered their cubicles. Cradling the glasses containing the first sample in their palms to keep the oil warm, they removed the lids, inserted their noses, and snuffled loudly, some closing their eyes. They sipped the oil, and began sucking in air violently, a technique known as strippaggio, which coats the taste buds with oil and helps its aromas ascend to the nasal passages. After the first volcanic slurps, the strippaggi grew softer and more meditative, and took on personal notes, the marquess’s wheezy and almost wistful, Zaramella’s deep and wet, as if he were gargling Epsom salts.

The tasters remained in their cubicles for the next hour, snuffling and slurping, and periodically cleansing their palates with mineral water. After sampling each oil, they rated its tastes, aromas, texture, and other characteristics on a scoring sheet. The panel’s leader, Alfredo Mancianti, collated the sheets, and assigned a score to each oil based on the tasters’ judgments. The Mastri Oleari panelists were remarkably consistent, agreeing not only on the subtle flavors—artichoke, fresh-cut grass, green tomato, kiwi—suggested by the oils but also on their intensity.

Even the most creative criminals have difficulty outwitting a properly trained tasting panel. “It’s like a machine,” Zaramella told me. “When I see that the oil is peppery, bitter, and smells of olives, rest assured that everything else is automatic.” And yet, according to Zaramella, Italian authorities rarely perform panel tests, and almost never on oil before it is sold. When oil fails a taste test, producers often successfully appeal the verdict by arguing that the samples were incorrectly collected or stored, or they secure a favorable judgment from a more permissive panel. In Italy, eight of the nine remaining panels of record—those empowered to pronounce legally binding opinions on olive-oil quality—belong to national govern-ment agencies. The only panel of record that does not belong to a national body, in Florence, curtailed its taste-testing activities in 2004, after it and two other local panels determined that extra-virgin oils made by Carapelli, Bertolli, Rubino, and other leading Italian brands were in fact virgin or lampante, and one of the panels was sued by Carapelli. (A Florence court threw out the case.)

Olive-oil fraud was already common in antiquity. Galen tells of unscrupulous oil merchants who mixed high-quality olive oil with cheaper substances like lard, and Apicius provides a recipe for turning cheap Spanish oil into prized oil from Istria using minced herbs and roots. The Greeks and the Romans used olive oil as food, soap, lotion, fuel for lamps and furnaces, a base for perfumes, and a cure for heart ailments, stomach aches, hair loss, and excessive perspiration. They also considered it a sacred substance; cult statues, like the effigy of Zeus at Olympia, were rubbed regularly with oil. People who bathed or exercised in Greek gymnasiums anointed their bodies as well, using oils that were scented with pressed flowers and roots. Some scholars link the central place of olive oil in Greek sports, which were performed in the nude, with the rise of bronze statuary in the sixth century B.C. “A tanned athlete, shining in the summer sun, covered with oil, would really resemble a statue of the gods,” Nigel Kennell, a specialist in ancient history at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, said. Belief in the sacred, health-giving properties of olive oil continued in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. “Christ” is from the Greek christos, meaning “the anointed one”—anointed with olive oil.

By the first century A.D., olives were a cash crop in the Roman Empire; in some regions, per-capita consumption of olive oil was as much as fifty litres a year. “People were prepared to spend the same amount of money on olive oil back then as they do on petroleum today,” Kennell said. “And governments went to great lengths to insure a steady supply of it.” The family of Septimius Severus, who was emperor from 193 to 211, grew rich on oil in Leptis Magna, a city in the Tripolitania region of North Africa (now Libya). “I’ve always thought of him as somewhat parallel to an oil sheikh,” David Mattingly, a professor of Roman archeology at the University of Leicester who studies Roman olive cultivation, told me. Severus introduced the first regular free distribution of olive oil in Rome—what might be called the bread-and-circuses-and-olive-oil approach to wooing the masses. The emperors Trajan and Hadrian were from the Baetica region of southern Spain (now Andalusia), and their accession triggered a boom in Baetica olive-oil exports. So much Baetica oil was sent to Rome that the amphorae in which it was transported, disposed of at a dump at the southeastern edge of the city, grew to a hill fifty metres high, known today as Monte Testaccio, or Mt. Potsherd.

The amphorae show evidence of extensive anti-fraud measures: each was painted with the exact weight of oil it contained, along with the name of the farm where the olives were pressed, the merchant who shipped the oil, and the official who verified this information before shipment. Reverse checks were presumably performed at Monte Testaccio when the amphorae were emptied, to confirm that the weight and quality had not changed during shipment. “The biggest danger was that merchants would substitute an inferior product en route, and the explicit labelling of goods was clearly designed to counter this,” Mattingly said.

In other words, the ancient Romans anticipated fraud of the kind perpetrated by Domenico Ribatti, and took more effective steps to prevent it than Italians do today. In April, Paolo De Castro, the agriculture minister, announced that the government had investigated seven hundred and eighty-seven olive-oil producers and found that two hundred and five were guilty of adulteration, false labelling, and other infractions. Yet it will be years before the cases are adjudicated, and most of the alleged violations are unlikely to result in substantial fines or jail sentences. De Castro has also proposed legislation that would require bottlers of extra-virgin and virgin oil to declare on their labels the oil’s country or countries of origin. But many observers believe that the legislation, known as the “Made in Italy” decree, contradicts existing E.U. regulations and will be struck down. “This decree is nothing but a cunning trick intended to pass back through the window what the E.U. has already tossed out the door,” Giorgio Fontana, a lawyer who has studied olive-oil legislation, says.

In March, 1993, Domenico Ribatti was arrested, along with his chief chemist and three other accomplices, and charged with contraband, fraud against the European Union, operating a criminal network, and other crimes. During an extended legal battle, he insisted that he had been defrauded by his suppliers—Caribbean shell companies that had sold Riolio hazelnut oil instead of olive oil. But when Pascal Brugger, a Swiss financier who managed these companies, turned state’s evidence, and revealed that Ribatti himself controlled them, his defense collapsed. In the end, Ribatti plea-bargained a thirteen-month prison term. (Ribatti, who has since left the olive-oil business, denied that he had committed any crimes. “I was just the scapegoat,” he told me.)

Leonardo Colavita, the president of ASSITOL, the olive-oil trade association, and the owner of Colavita, the olive-oil company, told me that the group’s policy is to expel member companies that are accused of illegal activity, so that, as he put it, “no one can attack us, no one can say, ‘You have criminals in your organization!’ ” According to Colavita, when Ribatti resigned from the organization he said, “If I leave, everybody’s got to leave.” Using the diminutive of Ribatti’s name, Colavita said, “Mim-mo Ribatti was a gentleman, because he didn’t name names. If he had named names, a lot of folks would have gone to jail.”

While investigating Ribatti, the E.U. anti-fraud team discovered that the two tankers he had used had also transported contraband olive oil to the port of Monopoli, in Puglia. The team traced the oil to an acquaintance of Ribatti’s named Leonardo Marseglia, the managing director of an olive-oil and vegetable-oil company in Monopoli. The company, now called Casa Olearia Italiana, became one of the leading olive-oil importers in Europe and owns one of the largest edible-oil refineries in the world.

In 1994, eighty agents from the Guardia di Finanza raided Casa Olearia and seized documents detailing four illegal shipments of oil involving the Mazal II and the Katerina T. In July, 1996, an arrest warrant was issued for Marseglia and sixteen business associates, on charges that included contraband, E.U. tax fraud, and operating a criminal network. Three weeks later, Marseglia, accompanied by his lawyer, surrendered to the authorities and was jailed. Prosecutors accused him of importing Tunisian olive oil falsely identified as a product of Europe, thus evading the duty imposed on non-European goods, and of illegally receiving E.U. olive-oil subsidies when, later, he sold the oil. Domenico Seccia, the prosecutor in the case, who also prosecuted Ribatti, believes that Marseglia taught Ribatti the criminal techniques for which Ribatti was eventually convicted. “Ribatti inherited from Marseglia all the methods and procedures of the fraud,” Seccia told me. “The Marseglia case is identical to Ribatti’s.”

In a ruling on January 13, 1997, Italy’s Supreme Court noted that the magistrate who authorized the arrests of Marseglia and his associates had “amply demonstrated, with documentary evidence, that the product unloaded in Monopoli was extra-EC olive oil from Tunisia, free from import tariffs, which was subsequently made to appear to be Italian olive oil using false sales transactions, resulting in serious EC fraud.” The court also noted that the magistrate had ordered the men’s arrests because of what he considered “the concrete risk that similar activities would be repeated,” and because of the “criminal character of the defendants.” Nonetheless, after years of judicial wrangling, the prosecutors were unable to win convictions, and the charges against Marseglia and his associates were dismissed in 2004, when the statute of limitations in their cases expired.

Last December, I travelled to Monopoli to visit Marseglia at Casa Olearia. Driving south from the airport in Bari, I followed the coastal highway through ancient olive groves, where the trees are of the local ogliarola cultivar, some of them nearly a thousand years old. Since 1994, Antonio Barile, the farmers’-union president, has led tens of thousands of olive farmers in blockades of the ports of Monopoli and Bari, where many tankers carrying oil arrive. Barile said that some oil shipments entering Italy with government approval are in violation of European law, which allows oil to be imported from countries outside the E.U. when local supplies cannot meet demand. So much of this cheaper foreign oil enters the local market that, for example, according to investigators at the Guardia di Finanza, only one per cent of the oil made in Puglia during the 2003-04 harvest and intended for sale in Italy actually sold at a profit for local producers.

At Monopoli, the highway skirts the Casa Olearia plant: stainless-steel silos, office buildings, smokestacks, and warehouses set, incongruously, in a grove of huge olive trees. Since Marseglia bought the complex, in 1981, it has grown fifteenfold; in 2005, the company processed about a million tons of olive oil and vegetable oils. The Italian press has called Marseglia, who began his career driving a delivery truck for his family’s olive-oil company, the “baron of extra-virgin.” Nonetheless, last year Marseglia left the olive-oil business to concentrate on making biodiesel fuels and electricity. In these fields, he told me, the authorities “break your balls less.”

Marseglia is sixty-one, and has the powerful frame, thick neck, and heavy-lidded eyes of an aging prizefighter. Despite a habit of referring to himself in the first-person plural, he is disarmingly informal; he prodded my arm companionably from time to time to emphasize a point. I asked him whether he was guilty of any of the crimes with which he had been charged. “We have never been convicted of anything up to this point,” he replied. “Therefore we don’t think there’s anything to add. We have suffered trials, and we have been acquitted because the events did not take place.” He added that he had earned the resentment of local farmers by importing foreign olive oil, which is necessary, he insisted, not only to satisfy Italy’s internal demand but also to bolster the shoddy quality of some of the local pugliese oil. “You have to import six hundred thousand to seven hundred thousand tons a year,” he said. “And since we imported a lot, to make blends to save many bad, smelly local oils, people basically saw it as an affront.” (Marseglia denied that he has ever adulterated his olive oil with other vegetable oils.)

Marseglia estimated that ninety per cent of oil sold in Italy as extra-virgin isn’t of premium grade. “It’s anything but extra-virgin, the oil we have here,” he said. He did not seem to think that this was a problem. “First of all, let’s give people good oil,” he said. “Then the excellent—all the extraordinary stuff at forty or fifty euros a kilo, which a few idiots in the world can afford—we’ll think about that later, no?” He told me that his family uses ordinary oil: “For us, the concept of ‘good’ is enough. We want to be average folks.”

Over lunch in the Casa Olearia canteen, Marseglia showed me what he meant by good oil. Techniques like strippaggio are “all hot air,” he said. “Tasting a plate of pasta is easy. Tasting a glass of wine is easy. Tasting a piece of fruit is easy. Tasting oil is the same. It has to have the same pleasurable tastes. If it has an unpleasant one, it’s not good—that’s pretty simple. They say you need a lot of knowledge to understand it, because they want to make the subject seem more intellectual.”

He reached across the table for a bottle of Giusto, his company’s supermarket label, unscrewed the cap, and pointed it at me. “Smell this. Does it smell good, or stink?”

It smelled good: a tart, intensely green fragrance that I’d come to associate with coratina, a popular olive cultivar in Puglia.

Marseglia brought the bottle to his lips and tipped in two big glugs. “So you put it in your mouth, right?” he said thickly, through the oil. “Either it’s disgusting, and you spit it in somebody’s face, or it’s good.” The sign of a good oil, he went on, is the bocca bella (“pretty mouth”), the pleasant taste and sensation that remains in the mouth after you’ve swallowed the oil.

Marseglia passed me the bottle. “Now you taste it, without doing what those other guys do,” he said. “Pretend you’re eating a candy, something good. Then we’ll see how it leaves your mouth.” He watched my face intently as I swallowed the oil, then nodded, satisfied. “Tasting things is simple,” he said.

In January, Marseglia was arraigned on charges relating to another olive-oil crime, this one involving the United States. According to documents compiled by investigators of the Guardia di Finanza, between 1998 and 2004 Casa Olearia evaded more than twenty-two million euros (about thirty million dollars) in E.U. duties by illegally importing seventeen thousand tons of Turkish and Tunisian olive oil, apparently with the coöperation of Italian customs officials. E.U. law allows non-European companies to ship oil duty-free to Italy for processing by an Italian company; however, investigators say that AgriAmerica, the American firm that Casa Olearia claims imported the oil, was a shell company created by Marseglia in order to evade customs duties. The oil was processed in the Casa Olearia laboratories, where investigators suspect that it was mixed with other vegetable oils, though they have been unable to prove this. Some of the oil was bought by Italian companies, but the bulk was shipped to distributors in the United States, who sold it as Italian olive oil.

The American market, which is worth about one and a half billion dollars, is the largest outside Europe, and is growing at a rate of ten per cent a year. Yet the Food and Drug Administration considers olive-oil fraud a relatively rare problem and does not routinely test oils for adulteration. Instead, the agency relies on major producers and trade groups, like the North American Olive Oil Association—whose members include several companies that also belong to ASSITOL—to alert it to suspicious products. With the industry acting as a watchdog, Martin Stutsman, a specialist in adulterated food at the F.D.A., told me, “you don’t waste your resources on surveys that are likely to make somebody comfortable but that don’t do much toward protecting the public health.”

In February, 2006, federal marshals seized about sixty-one thousand litres of what was supposedly extra-virgin olive oil and twenty-six thousand litres of a lower-grade olive oil from a New Jersey warehouse. Some of the oil, which consisted almost entirely of soybean oil, was destined for a company called Krinos Foods, a member of the North American Olive Oil Association. Krinos blamed the fraud on its supplier, DMK Global Marketing, which in turn blamed the Italian bottlers from whom it had bought the oil. The marshals destroyed the oil, but no criminal charges were brought against Krinos or any other companies. “My experience over a period of some fifty years suggests that we can always expect adulteration and mislabelling of olive-oil products in the absence of surveillance by official sources,” David Firestone, an F.D.A. chemist who was the agency’s olive-oil specialist from the mid-sixties to 1999, told me.

In September, Marseglia and five associates will be tried at a closed hearing in Puglia for their role in the AgriAmerica case. They have been charged with forming a criminal network for the purpose of committing contraband, but an investigator familiar with the case says that Marseglia is unlikely to be convicted. “He has protection at the highest levels, from right to left across the political spectrum,” the investigator told me. (Marseglia, citing the ongoing nature of the case, declined to comment on the charges against him but said that he expected to be found innocent, as he had been in previous investigations.)

Casa Olearia remains a member of ASSITOL, which has considerable influence in both Rome and Brussels. The Italian government’s Technical Commission of Oils and Fats, a group that helps draft olive-oil regulations, includes several heads of laboratories belonging to ASSITOL members; its chair is Enrico Tiscornia, a longtime scientific consultant to ASSITOL, who also serves on an analogous board in Brussels. Moreover, ASSITOL recently collaborated with the Italian Ministry of Agriculture on a proposal to create a “Mediterranean Axis of Olive Oil,” which a 2004 government document described as “an informal cartel of international dimensions among olive-oil producers.” According to Colavita, ASSITOL’s president, the project was initiated by Gio-vanni Alemanno, the agriculture minister from 2001 to 2006, and would be financed by the Italian government. The goal, he said, was to expand olive-oil production in Syria, Morocco, Turkey, and other southern Mediterranean countries outside the E.U., and to facilitate the sale of the oil in Italy, using a duty-free storage facility in a southern Italian port.

Paolo De Castro, who replaced Alemanno as agriculture minister last year, told me that he was unfamiliar with the project. But when I described it to him he said that he supported its aims. “We have to avoid distortions, not place limits on business,” he told me. “The important thing is that people don’t act like wise guys, and that this Tunisian oil doesn’t become extra-virgin olive oil from Puglia. Now, this is quite a little problem, eh?” De Castro added that his “Made in Italy” decree, which would require distributors to declare the provenance of their oil on labels, would prevent them from misleading the public. “You write it, and there’s no problem,” he said.

Leonardo Marseglia dismissed the notion that such a measure could be effective. “Oil doesn’t have an identity card; it just goes,” he said. “When someone has two silos of oil, one Italian and the other foreign, you just have to switch them: the other one becomes Italian oil, this one becomes foreign.” Noting that oils labelled “Made in Italy” sell for more than other oils, Marseglia said that De Castro’s legislation would only inspire more fraud. “So what’s going to happen? They’ll do another swindle, and behind the mask of ‘Made in Italy’ there’s foreign oil labelled ‘Made in Italy.’ ” Leonardo Colavita is equally skeptical: “I say that a criminal ought to make the law, because the criminal knows how to outwit the law.” ♦
Read more:

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cassein (Dairy) could be natural antioxidant for boosting meat shelf life

Breaking News on Food & Beverage Development - Europe
Casein could be natural antioxidant for boosting meat shelf-life: Study
By Stephen Daniells, 30-Jan-2009
Related topics: Meat, fish and savoury ingredients, Proteins, non-dairy
Modification of the milk protein casein by enzymes could offer formulators a natural antioxidant for beef and poultry products, according to new research from Brazil.
Karina Rossini and co-workers from the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil report that enzymatic hydrolysis of casein produced smaller peptides, which could prevent the spoilage of meat products.
“Casein peptides may be useful in meat processing as another naturally occurring antioxidant, helping to prevent off-flavour formation of meat and its products and increasing shelf life,” wrote the authors in the journal LWT - Food Science and Technology.
Typically, the oxidative deterioration of meat and meat products is caused by the degradation reactions of fats and pigments. Oxidation processes in food can lead to organoleptic deterioration in taste, colour and texture
“At present, consumer demand for natural functional foods has been increasing, and therefore casein peptides can be used as a functional food ingredient in pharmaceutical and food industries,” added the researchers.
The research does indeed tap into growing interest in natural food additives as replacements to synthetic antioxidants like butylhydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) to slow down the oxidative deterioration of food.
According to a 2003 report by Frost and Sullivan, the synthetic antioxidant market is in decline, while natural antioxidants, such as herb extracts, tocopherols (vitamin E) and ascorbates (vitamin C) are growing, pushed by consumer desire acceptance and easier market access.
Study details
The researchers used the commercial enzymes Flavourzyme and Alcalase (Novozymes) to hydrolyse casein. The resulting peptides from Flavourzyme were found to contain more soluble protein and free amino acids than Alcalase.
Measures of the peptides’ antioxidant activity revealed that those produced by Flavourzyme had higher values, compared to those obtained with Alcalase.
When formulated into ground beef homogenates and mechanically de-boned poultry meat, the researchers found that the casein peptides “effectively inhibited lipid peroxidation” in the beef (100 per cent inhibition), and by 21 per cent for the poultry product, and thereby produced an extension of the products’ shelf-lives.
While the study is not the first of its kind to investigate the effects of casein peptides in meat formulations, it does support the potential of these ingredients at a time when food manufacturers continue to look for ‘natural’ additives to their products.
“These results suggest that bioactive peptides from casein hydrolysis may be used as natural antioxidants in meat systems,” concluded Rossini and her co-workers.
Source: LWT - Food Science and TechnologyVolume 42, Issue 4, Pages 862-867“Casein peptides with inhibitory activity on lipid oxidation in beef homogenates and mechanically deboned poultry meat”Authors: K. Rossini, C.P.Z. Norena, F. Cladera-Olivera, A. Brandelli
Copyright - Unless otherwise stated all contents of this web site are © 2000/2009 - Decision News Media SAS - All Rights Reserved - For permission to reproduce any contents of this web site, please email our Syndication department: Administration & Finance - Full details for the use of materials on this site can be found in the Terms & Conditions
© 2000/2009 - Decision News Media SAS - All right reserved.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Shatnez???????????? yes-can't rely on them




Monsey Shatnez Center,

203 Lee Ave & Gelb their tester

copy express

What is the true value of a lakewood lot?

COMPLAINT- [filed]
Ocean County Tax Board
Lakewood Township Committee
NJ Division of Taxation
August 21st, 2009
RE: Lakewood township assessments.
Lakewood Township values their single family land different depending what the purpose is for.
The Lakewood Tax assessor’s office values their single family land upwards of one hundred and ninety thousand ($190,000.00) dollars.
Lakewood Township Tax Assessor and their professional independent appraiser are testifying under oath at the Ocean County Tax Board to the effect that “Lakewood values of single family lots are valued upwards of one hundred and ninety thousand ($190,000.00) dollars.
In the very last few weeks and as recent as August 20th, 2009, the Lakewood Tax Assessor’s office in a valuation for the Lakewood Township Committee Re: Pine River Development single family unrestricted lots, valued as eighty five thousand ($85,000.00) dollars.
In their official capacity and under oath, Lakewood Tax Assessor is utilizing different valuations for the same type of land taking into account all standard adjustments i.e. location, size, etc.
We believe that it is unacceptable and in all likelihood illegal as well.
This complaint includes but is not limited to the following: the Lakewood Township Committee et al, the Lakewood Tax Assessor et al, the appraisal Company, et al that is currently defending Lakewood’s assessment in front of the Ocean County Tax Board and the New Jersey Tax Court.

I Remain,

Yehuda Shain
1140 forest Avenue
Lakewood, New Jersey 08701

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Ocean County Tax Board, President & Commissioners
New Jersey Division of Taxation
Lakewood Township Manager
August 31, 2009

On or about August 13th, 2009 the Lakewood Tax Assessor, Ms. Linda Solakian (“Assessor”) in the presence of many people, verbally attacked Mr. P. G. Waxman , a Commissioner of the Ocean County Tax Board and its current president. During the verbal tirade the Assessor included “racist remarks” including “your people”. Judges and other public Officials were forced to step down for similar remarks. The assessor also verbally attacked others from the Orthodox Jewish community.
Commissioner Waxman did not respond regarding the racist remark, nor has he taken any action legal, or otherwise, (as far as I know) towards the Assessor.
It is unethical and unconscionable that Commissioner Waxman has not taken any action towards the Assessor and has allowed her to testify in front of the Tax Board.
Commissioner Waxman, who is a resident of Lakewood, should have been aware that most of the Lakewood tax appeals are from the orthodox Jewish community whom the assessor used the racist remark against them.
Commissioner Waxman should have had the Assessor disqualified and set up a hearing to relieve the Assessor of her duties.
It is fact that, previous Tax Board Commissioners who were intimidated by the above Assessor and allegedly received telephone communications from upper echelon political power brokers not to challenge the above mentioned Assessor, actually resigned from the tax board due to her intimidation and actions. That in itself does not justify Commissioner Waxman’s lack of actions against the Assessor.
The Comps produced by The Lakewood Assessor & Mr. Gagliano “ MAI” ? for the Lakewood Tax Appeals contain much erroneous information and should therefore be disqualified. The Assessor & Mr. Gagliano may have committed perjury by presenting documentation & evidence that they should have known was erroneous.
The appraisals are not conforming to any guidelines in Appraisal practice and were done in complete disregard to the ethics and moral duty required of them.
The erroneous appraisals that Lakewood Township presented to the Tax Board to justify the Lakewood Assessors inflated property values is a clear indicator of the Assessors valuation practice. Therefore there is no “presumption of correctness” for all of the Assessors Lakewood valuations. In conclusion, the only item in front of the Commissioners’ to consider is the Appellants’ Comps or testimony.
The Tax Board Commissioners’ actions are granted “immunity” by the State. It may be a broad immunity but it is not blanket immunity.
The Lakewood Assessors prepared SR1A’s, which are used by the Division for the Ratios, should be disqualified, as they contain erroneous information in determining useable and non-useable sales. The sales that come in with lower than the assessed values which would be an indicator of possible market change, are disqualified as non-useable with the use of #26, etc.
When there is a clear non-useable inflated sale (double of the last sale of a mere 2-3 months ago), it is listed as a useable sale. When there are other verifiable circumstances why a property is sold “out of proportion to the market condition” no sufficient research is done to ascertain the true circumstances.
When the Assessor and Appraiser will opt to use an out of area, out of date, dis-similar properties, etc with loads of adjustments, when there are area comps, closer dates, more similar comps, less adjustments, that should be suspect and looked upon as a discrimination appeal as well, and the appellants should be allowed to show other assessments that are lower as well.
As the board heard from appellants during the hearings, the proper adjustments were not made from the Township’s comps to the appellant subject properties (e.g. pool, square footage, zoning, water & sewer vs. well &Septic , etc).
Additionally, when a selected comp is used by Lakewood to maintain the assessment for numerous properties there is no consistency in that home’s features and line item adjustment values. It just depends on what the Assessor and appraiser want as “the bottom line”.
The Assessor is not in compliance with the state mandated Code of Ethics of Municipal Assessors as appears in Handbook for New Jersey Assessors.
The Handbook for New Jersey Assessors has very clear requirements for Proper “public relations” with an Assessor’s office. It is clearly not being followed by the above mentioned Assessor. There is actually intimidation and fear in dealing with the current Assessor.
The Assessor is also not complying with the Handbooks section 1102.2
Section 1102.3 Second paragraph
Section 320.1 “The Assessor having made every reasonable effort to help……
Section 320.4 “If doubt exists……..The presentation of additional….

I remain,

Yehuda Shain
1140 Forest Avenue
Lakewood, NJ 08701
By Fax, mail & certified mail

Monday, August 24, 2009

Where did OBAMA's funding come from?

New York Times Editorial By MAUREEN DOWD Published: June 29, 2008

OBAMA'S TROUBLING INTERNET FUND RAISING Certainly the most interesting and potentially devastating phone call I have received during this election cycle came this week from one of the Obama's campaign internet geeks.. These are the staffers who devised Obama's internet fund raising campaign which raised in the neighborhood of $200 million so far. That is more then twice the total funds raised by any candidate in history – and this was all from the internet campaign.What I learned from this insider was shocking but I guess we shouldn't be surprised that when it comes to fund raising there simply are no rules that can't be broken and no ethics that prevail.Obama's internet campaign started out innocently enough with basic e-mail networking , lists saved from previous party campaigns and from supporters who visited any of the Obama campaign web sites. Small contributions cam e in from these sources and the internet campaign staff were more than pleased by the results.Then, about two months into the campaign the daily contribution intake multiplied. Where was it coming from? One of the web site security monitors began to notice the bulk of the contributions were clearly coming in from overseas internet service providers and at the rate and frequency of transmission it was clear these donations were "programmed" by a very sophisticated user.While the security people were not able to track most of the sources due to firewalls and other blocking devices put on these contributions they were able to collate the number of contributions that were coming in seemingly from individuals but the funds were from only a few credit card accounts and bank electronic funds transfers. The internet service providers (ISP) they were able to trace were from Saudi Arabia , Iran , and other Middle Eastern countries. One of the banks used for fund transfers was also located in Saudi Arabia . Another concentrated group of donations was traced to a Chinese ISP with a similar pattern of limited credit card charges.It became clear that these donations were very likely coming from sources other than American voters. This was discussed at length within the campaign and the decision was made that none of these donations violated campaign financing laws. It was also decided that it was not the responsibility of the campaign to audit these millions of contributions as to the actual source (specific credit card number or bank transfer account numbers) to insure that none of these internet contributors exceeded the legal maximum donation on a cumulative basis of many small donations. They also found the record keeping was not complete enough to do it anyway.This is a shocking revelation.We have been concerned about the legality of "bundling" contributio ns after the recent exposure of illegal bundlers but now it appears we may have an even greater problem.I guess we should have been somewhat suspicious when the numbers started to come out. We were told (no proof offered) that the Obama internet contributions were from $10.00 to $25.00 or so.If the $200,000,000 is right, and the average contribution was $15.00, that would mean over 13 million individuals made contributions? That would also be 13 million contributions would need to be processed. How did all that happen?I believe the Obama campaign's internet fund raising needs a serious, in depth investigation and audit. It also appears the whole question of internet fund raising needs investigation by the legislature and perhaps new laws to insure it complies not only with the letter of these laws but the spirit as well.IS IT RIGHT FOR FOREIGN COUNTRIES TO HAVE AN INVESTMENT IN WHO BECOMES OUR NEXT PRESIDENT??? IF YOU ARE IN AGREEMENT WITH THIS, PLEASE PASS IT ON. The fact that the NY Times allowed this to be printed is amazing in itself.

Friday, August 21, 2009


click on link


ביקשו ממך לנכות צ'קים? אולי ה-F.B.I. מתעניין בך האם האף. בי. אי. גייס לשירותיו עוד משתפי-פעולה מקרב הציבור החרדי? אם הדברים תלויים בעדותו של אחד מבעלי מפעלי הבשר הכשר הגדולים בארצות-הברית - התשובה היא חיוביתיוסי כץ, כתב בחדרי חרדיםתאריך: 21/08/2009 13:40:00
'פרשיית דיל' ירדה מסדר היום הציבורי. לא בשל חוסר עניין ציבורי, אלא בגלל עומס הפרשות שהיה בעוכרינו: נעדרים, רציחות, אלימות גואה, מעילות, התאבדויות ועוד כיד הדמיון הלא טובה עליכם, הותירו את פרשת 'דיל' אי שם בנבכי הזיכרון הציבורי, הרחק מאור השמש. ענן החשדות עדיין מרחף, ובעיירה דיל עדיין מלקקים את הפצעים העמוקים.אולם, ממידע שהגיע לאתר 'בחדרי חרדים' עולה, כי בעוד התקשורת עברה לעסוק בנושאים אחרים ומאתגרים יותר, האף. בי. אי ממשיך לעסוק בנושאים הקשורים לציבור החרדי - ואינו מרפה מהחקירות האינטנסיביות. האם האף. בי. אי. גייס לשירותיו עוד משתפי פעולה מהציבור החרדי? אם הדברים תלויים בעדותו של אחד מבעלי מפעלי הבשר הכשר הגדולים בארצות-הברית - דומה שהתשובה המזעזעת היא חיובית.על פי עדותו, שהגיעה לידי כתב אתר 'בחדרי חרדים', עולה כי אחד מעצורי הפרשייה החרדים (לא מבני הקהילה בעיירה דיל), התקשר לבעל המפעל וביקש ממנו לנכות עבורו צ'קים תמורת עמלה. בעל המפעל, שמכיר את העצור לשעבר באופן רופף, לא הבין מה לו ולבקשה זו, אך השיב כי אם הוא זקוק לכך בדחיפות, הוא ימלא את הבקשה.לאחר מםפר רגעים סיפר לו אחד העובדים כי האיש שפנה הוא "מעצורי פרשת דיל", ואולי כדאי לחשוב שוב לפני שמבצעים עבורו בקשה שעלולה להתנגש עם החוק. בעל המפעל המזועזע הבין כי חידוש הקשר מצד האברך אינו מקרי. לדבריו, האברך ככל הנראה משתף פעולה עם חוקרי האף. בי. אי. על מנת להפיל עוד חרדים בארצות-הברית. למרות שאין הוכחות חד-משמעיות כי האברך אכן פועל מטעם הבולשת הפדארלית, די בסיפור זה בכדי ללמד על אווירת הנרדפות והחשש העצום המקנן בקרב אזרחים חרדיים בארצות-הברית.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

OU-Israel, Reliable?

1. A New Kashrus Agency in Eretz Yisrael2. 3rd Shuk Tour3. A Look at the Hechsher – OU IsraelThe article is available with accompanying photos on the website. One may also add a comment for posting on the website.
1. A New Kashrus Agency in Eretz Yisrael It was by all accounts a historic event, the launching of a newkashrus agency in Israel, one that enjoys widespread support. The event was hosted in Bnei Brak’s Vishnitz Hotel on Tuesday, August 11,2009.All chassidic bodies have joined force, explaining they have created ahechsher that will integrate the hidurim of all the respective groupsincorporated in the effort.The new agency is being called Badatz Kehillot HaChareidim in EretzYisrael, the product of a year’s work. The official date of the launchof the new agency is 21 Av 5769. Organizers believe that from itsinception, the new agency will be directing products at 30,000families.

The directors of the agency will be Admorim, the Rebbe’s of therespective chassidic courts, who have handpicked the rabbonim who willrepresent them on the board. The list of rabbonim on the new Badatzinclude Rav Zoldon (Haifa), Rav Pessach Horowitz (Ashdod), Rav ChaimSchwartz (Netanya), Rav Shraga Feivel Weinberger (Bnei Brak), RavEliezer Koenig (Tzfat), Rav Nachman Berlind, Rav Yeshayahu Brizal(Jerusalem), Rav Rozovsky (Rosh Yeshiva Slonim), Rav MordechaiEichler, Rav Binyomin Adler, Rav Yoroslovsky (Chabad), Rav Meir Weiss(grandson of Erlau Rebbe Shlita), Rav Simcha Rabinowitz (RamatShlomo), and Rav Shamai Gross (Jerusalem).A number of other rabbonim, currently out of the country, are expectedto join in the future, Chareidim reports.The rabbonim running the organization are reported to be veterans tothe kashrut industry and represent an array of expertise. Rav Schwartzfor example, has been responsible for kashrus in the Laniado Hospitalin Netanya as well as the Ganei Sanz Hotel. The organization plans tobegin by addressing schita.

****2. 3rd Shuk TourBaruch Hashem, on Tuesday evening the third JKN shuk kashrut walkingtour pounded the pavement, and participants expressed satisfaction,with a feeling the time was well spent, learning the ins-and-outs ofthe kashrut maze in Israel, particularly the ‘shuk’.Next Tuesday, August 18th, two additional walking tours are planned.They are booked to capacity. There are many who are wait-listed.Please continue to monitor the list and website for information ofupcoming walking tours. I do not plan any others in August, but whoknows.Yeshivot and seminaries who might benefit from my PowerPointdemonstration for students who spend their year in Israel, dates arefilling rapidly so if you are interested, send an email sooner ratherthan later.By the way, the photo accompanying this article only shows a smallgroup. It appears the participants of this group were quite camerashy.

****3. A Look at the Hechsher – OU IsraelFor me, one who grew up in the East Coast of the United States, OU wassynonymous with ‘kosher’, but not just kosher, a level of kashrut thatcould be trusted, synonymous with transparency, legitimacy, and agenuine concern for the kosher consumer.When the news began unfolding a number of years ago that the OUexisted in the Holy Land, it brought a smile to the faces of many aformer N. American, realizing this premier kashrus organization wouldwithout a doubt remove the complexities of the Israeli kashrus scene,permitting us to sit back and relax, entering an OU restaurant orhotel and enjoy Israel’s finest cuisine with the knowledge the kosherstandard was among the highest available.That is how I began this report about months ago, optimistic, andadmittedly somewhat excited, armed with my pen, pad and digitalcamera, I set out to show the world what the OU is bringing to EretzYisrael.To my dismay, what I found was not exactly what I expected. There isno kashrus transparency, no written or published standard, and nofriendly voice on the other end of the phone to explain thecomplexities of the kashrus situation. I cannot really say what thestandard is, but what I can do is to relay facts, the findings of manymany hours in the street, photographing, speaking with mashgichim inthe industry, checking eateries and hotels, and of course, speakingand meeting with the head of the OU in Israel, Rabbi Yosef Minsky, andhis assistant, Rachel Stewart. I will add that the OU-Israel koshercertificates displayed in hotels do not even all contain the name of amashgiach or mefakaiach to call, as is evident from the photosaccompanying this article.

****I BEGIN WITH SOME TERMINOLOGY & HARD FACTSFirstly, one must understand some of the basic ins-and-outs of kashrusin Israel, in this case, pertaining to the Jerusalem RabbinicalCouncil. There are two levels of kashrus, ‘regular’ and ‘mehadrin’,with the later ensuring a higher standard, one that should becommensurate with many many stringencies that permit the food forpeople adhering to a high standard.This includes proficient inspection of fish, greens and legumes forinsects and bugs, prohibiting the use of many items including but notlimited to strawberries, other berries, certain cuts of meat, and thecertainty that the milk, vegetables, foods and other items are not theresult of chilul shabbos. It also means there is a mashgiach timidi (arabbinical kashrut inspector) present while the kitchen operates. Yes,this is all an over simplification, but I am trying to give a generaloverview and not get bogged down in defining the difference betweenregular and mehadrin).In a regular kashrut environment, a mashgiach pops in from time to time (yotzei v’nichnas), not necessarily daily, and the level ofkashrut adherence in the kitchen is inferior to the mehadrin.The Jerusalem Rabbinate employs mashgichim, as well as a mefakaiach(supervisor) who is not assigned to a special store, but goes to anumber of places supervising his subordinates, the mashgichim.

****OU-ISRAELSometime ago, prior to embarking on this article, I spoke with RabbiYosef Minsky to get an idea of what OU-Israel brings the kosherconsumer. He explained that being that we are in the Holy Land, thelevel is higher than in the United States, guaranteeing chalavyisrael, bishul yisrael, and regarding shmitah, only l’chumra. He toldme in many a conversation that the level of OU-Israel adheres to thestrictest standards, cutting no corners, making certain Americans andIsraelis alike can enjoy, well-assured the level of kosher is amongthe highest in the industry. It is pertinent to the article to insertat this point that on numerous occasions, Rav Minsky added that heviews the OU among the premier agencies, like Eida Chareidit, makingsure to insert he is operating on a higher level than JerusalemRabbinate Mehadrin. This was repeated and stressed on numerousoccasions.I emphasize that I am not making any judgments as to the level ofkashrus, but I will use this forum to present facts, and perhaps toexpress a level of frustration I have not known in dealing with anyother kashrus agencies in Israel.As you, readers are aware, I do not generally write about kashrusagencies as an independent unit in a feature article, but events sortof compel that I attempt to document many isolated incidents into acohesive report. One of the reasons is the fact that JKN is an Englishforum, thereby attracting many former and current Americans, resultingin many a query regarding OU-Israel.I strongly suggest that email recipients take the time to view thearticle online, where photos accompany the documentation.

****MORIAH CLASSIC HOTELThe Moriah Classic Hotel, formally the Novetell, is one of theJerusalem Hotels under the supervision of OU-Israel. It also enjoysthe supervision of the Jerusalem Rabbinate, regular, not mehadrin.I will spare you hours of phone calls and investigatory efforts andcut to the chase. The hotel rav and mashgiach, Rabbi Elyashiv Nafcha,will attest to the fact that there is no OU mashgiach in reality, eventhough the certificate, which is not posted conspicuously as per RabbiNafcha’s decision, since the last one expired, stated the mashgiach isRabbi Eliezer Mendelson. Rabbi Nafcha runs quite the legitimate show,which I will detail in an upcoming report on the hotel. Bottom line,the OU relies on a non-mehadrin Rabbanut hechsher for its OU mehadrinhechsher. In reality, the hotel ingredients are mehadrin but that isnot the point. If one phones the hotel and asks for the rav ormashgiach, Rav Nafcha will tell you the hotel is under J. Rabbinateregular, while the ingredients purchased are mehadrin, but this is notthe same as a mehadrin hotel .JKN phoned the OU-Israel office and we were assured the hotel is underits supervision and mehadrin, “not like the Eida Chareidit, but likethe Belz and other regular mehadrin hechshers”.In short, you the kosher consumer are visiting a non-mehadrin hoteland eating, believing an OU mehadrin mashgiach is there. Sorry folks,but this is simply not the case.

****JERUSALEM PLAZA HOTELThe Jerusalem Plaza Hotel is under the supervision the JerusalemRabbinate Mehadrin, and OU-Israel. Once again, the hotel mashgiach,Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Altman is the rav and chief mashgiach. Asveteran readers know, I am a fan, impressed with the kashrut standardmaintained by this senior veteran mashgiach. In this case too, heexplains, the OU mashgiach, guess who -- Rabbi Eliezer Mendelson, isnot really in control of kashrus. Here again, it appears the OU relieson the Rabbanut mashgiach to cover itself.I will point out that Rabbi Mendelson is a member of Rabbi Altman’sstaff, one of his mashgichim. When I asked the Jerusalem Rabbinate ifthey are bothered by this conflict of interests, I was told thatofficially, Mendelson is a “representative” of the Rabbinate and an“employee” of the Plaza, so no problem.Anyway, here too the OU-Israel enjoys the zealous efforts of the hotelrav and comfortably adds its kashrut sign, but in reality, RabbiMendelson does not make the decisions regarding what foods arepurchased, used, and so-forth. Rabbi Altman runs the kashrut show hereand there have not been any changes in the kashrut operation since theOU added it name.

****MOSHIKO SHWARMAOnce again, Jerusalem Rabbinate Mehadrin and OU-Israel. As you mayremember from a previous report, the Rabbinate mashgiach is presentfor about 8 hours daily, and the Rabbinate supervisor (mefakaiach)visits several times a week. The OU Mefakaiach, Rabbi Avraham Turetzkytold JKN that he relies on the Rabbanut mashgichim and visits from“time-to-time”.Here I must point out that while the J. Rabbinate Mehadrin seems to bedoing its job, the OU office has told me repeatedly its standard ishigher than the Rabbanut Mehadrin and it does not rely on the mehadrinhechsher. It appears Rabbi Turetzky is unaware of this policy decisionsince he does indeed rely on the J. Rabbinate mashgiach timidi.

****JERUSALEM GATE HOTELYou guessed it, Jerusalem Rabbinate Mehadrin and Rabbi Turetzky assupervisor. In truth, all my investigations show the hotel runs justfine, but again, due to the credit of the Jerusalem Rabbinate with theOU taking a free ride. By the way, R’ Turetzky’s name, or anyone elsefor that matter, does not appear on the certificate.I will use this opportunity to add that all my phone calls revealRabbi Turetzky is a serious G-d fearing Rav, one who take kashrusseriously. In addition to his demanding kashrus positions, he alsoserves as an employee of the Rabbinical Center of Europe, where heworks in their Givat Shaul, Jerusalem, office during the afternoonhours. The point, once again, the hotel relies on the JerusalemRabbinate, which the OU office degrades, but in essence, it maintainsthe level of kashrus.Here again, as in the case of R’ Mendelson, R’ Turetzky is the hotelrav/mashgiach for the J. Rabbinate, and the OU.I think it is also noteworthy to add that one who relies on OU foreating out and possibly less comfortable with the Jerusalem RabbinateMehadrin, in the overwhelming majority of cases, you are eating theRabbanut schita, not OU meat or chickens.
****TAIKULocated on Emek Refaim Street in the German Colony, this fine eateryis becoming increasingly popular, it recently decided to leave theAgudat Yisrael supervision and move to the OU [see previous reports].Since that time, I have contacted the mashgiach twice by phone andmade three unannounced visits. Sorry, but he was never on site. Thisdoes not say there are kashrus problems, but this is not exactly whatis meant by “mashgiach timidi”.I use this opportunity to add that in violation of state law, the OUhas granted a certificate of kashrut to this restaurant despite thefact that it does not have a Jerusalem Rabbinate hechsher. The samewas true under Agudat Yisrael as per the Jerusalem Religious CouncilKashrut Department.

****PAPAGAIOThis is without a doubt the new excitement on the N. AmericanJerusalem eating scene. Since moving from Jerusalem Rabbinate regularto OU after Tisha B’Av, it has been standing room only. This branch,the only mehadrin branch of Papagaio is located at 3 Yad CharutzimStreet in the Talpiot area of Jerusalem.This story is a bit longer, even the abridged version --I saw the full page color ad in the weekend J. Post, and decided Iwill call to make an appointment and visit, to write up therestaurant. As is my custom, I phoned to request permission tointerview the mashgiach and tour the kitchen. The restaurant was morethan pleased to comply, as is always the case – realizing thepotential for free media exposure. I arrived at 10:45am, 15 minutesearly, using the time to take photos.

Arriving early permits me some time to check out a place before aformal interview begins; something that helps me assess the situation.In this case too, I did just that and I saw an impressive place, aBrazilian steakhouse busy with the daily getting-the-day-started mode,setting tables, preparing the salads, meats and other foods for the 12noon opening. The prices displayed on the menu were extremelyreasonable considering the ambiance and general feel of the place.

I introduced myself to the branch manager, Yaniv, who actually fit thecentral casting for the part, shaven head and quite suave inappearance, the type of chap one would expect operating such a fineeatery. I learned from him there are seven stores in Israel, 5 withregular rabbinate supervision in other cities, one not kosher and openshabbos, and this branch, under the OU for only a number of days. Idid not know they just moved from Jerusalem Rabbinate regular to theOU, but that is not relevant either. (The J. Rabbinate certificate wasnot on display so I could not know. I did check with the office of theJ. Rabbinate a number of days later).By any definition of the word, the restaurant is an impressivesteakhouse, and it is not difficult to understand why the reservationphone is ringing off the hook since it announced its OU-Israelhechsher.

Anyway, everyone was there except for Shaul Ben-Shachar, themashgiach. I was given his cellular number and we spoke, and itappears no one informed him of the meeting. Anyway, he was apologeticand we agreed I would wait an hour for him to arrive. To speed up thestory, after waiting about 40 minutes, Yaniv informed me that he spokewith Rabbi Y. Minsky (head of the OU-Israel) and he informed Yanivthat I may not enter the kitchen without him being present. I wasasked to leave – a request that I accommodated, somewhat frustratedand angry, but I do not get into arguments over entering a kitchen. Bylaw, no one has to grant me access since I have no state-givenauthority, only a press card.For those who remember the recent updated photo report on Emek Refaimarea restaurants, that report was prompted by this chain of events. Ihad already wasted too much time, and was perturbed. Rather than busit back to the center of town I walked, passing through the GermanColony, using the time to photograph the stores for the updatedreport.After cooling down a bit I decided to phone Rabbi Minsky to confirmthat he actually gave the order barring me from the Papagaio kitchen.He confirmed the facts. After about 15 minutes on the phone I realizedthe conversation was not heading anywhere and tried to end it. Therabbi pointed out I am not a rabbi, or kashrut expert, to which Iagreed, but I pointed out I am quite proficient in documenting factsand have enough learning under my belt and on-site experience to dojust that. I also explained I was not seeking kashrut inadequacies,but just to relay the facts to readers as I have been doing for thepast 2.5 years.When Rabbi Minsky realized I was fed up with his shenanigans, tellinghim I planned to boycott the OU-Israel in future reports to avoidrepeated confrontations, he changed his tone and explained that he didnot realize I was the correspondent at Papagaio, but feared it wassomeone else who might just be seeking to give the OU a bad name. Weagreed that I would telephone and come in to meet with him to talk,which I have not yet done. Quite honestly, I do not see any benefit insuch meeting and blei neder, I have no intention of re-visitingPapagaio today or any other day in the future.I spoke with the Jerusalem Rabbinate to see if Papagaio has acertificate, since only the OU-Israel certificate is displayed. Ilearned it has a Jerusalem Rabbinate regular hechsher and themashgiach is R’ Avi Levy, who is on duty 3 hours daily, usually duringthe afternoon.R’ Levy told me that R’ Ben-Shachar [the OU-Israel mashgiach] is onduty from 8:30am “every day” and makes certain the kitchen neveroperates without a mashgiach present. He assured me that the kitchenNEVER operates without one of the three mashgichim present, not evenduring the early-morning setting up hours.I can only say on the one occasion I popped in, this was not the case.Meats and poultry were being marinated, the grill was lit before myeyes, salads cut and much more was taking place, without a mashgiachpresent. There is also a third mashgiach beginning at 5:00pm untilmidnight R’ Levy told me, also under OU-Israel auspices. (I wasunable to get his name).R’ Levy told me the meat was OU and the chicken Fleish (OU-Israelalso). R’ Ben-Shachar said meat was Agudah and poultry Fleish).Before moving on, I pose a question here for both the J. Rabbinate andOU-Israel -- Those viewing the photos accompanying this article cansee the well-stocked Papagaio bar. Well, I sent the photos to aRabbanut expert on hard drinks and he told me that two items are“problematic” and one is definitely dairy.My question is what is a dairy liquor doing in a meat restaurant and Iask the OU, what is a “problematic” drink doing in a mehadrinrestaurant? Especially since OU America is a leader in raisingawareness to the possible kashrut problems related to hard drinks.

****AGAS VETAPUACHAgas VeTapuach is a high-end operation, dairy/parve, located at KikarSafra, Jerusalem City Hall.In short, I spoke with Yonatan, the owner/manager and the JerusalemRabbinate. The place is under the supervision of Jerusalem Rabbinateregular and OU-Israel mehadrin. The supervisor is R’ Turetzky, and theJ. Rabbinate mashgiach comes and goes, as is fine in compliance withthe dictates of a regular J. Rabbinate supervision. There is not OU-Israel mashgiach, only a supervisor who makes occasional visits. Inshort, this OU-Mehadrin place does not have any mashgiach timidi.Yonatan assures me all his products are “badatz mehadrin and chalavyisrael”.

****SUMMATION1. There are numerous other OU-Israel supervised hotels, eateries andcaterers in the Greater Jerusalem area. I do not plan to visit orreview them. This is not because of kashrut concerns, but due to thelack of cooperation from OU-Israel office staff and the smokescreenthat results in some of my questions.2. This report does not intend to hint at the level of kashrut in anyof the places mentioned, for good or G-d forbid otherwise, regardingthe OU. I have reported on some of the places, such as the JerusalemPlaza and Moshiko, and they indeed are true to their J. Rabbinatehechsher. The OU-Israel adds absolutely nothing other than a red andwhite sign.3. If one is stringent on eating OU schita (beef and poultry) whenentering an OU establishment, think again in Israel. Not all placesuse Fleish chickens and to date, the OU has not succeeded in havingits own cattle schita despite efforts to do so. Therefore, if amashgiach in Jerusalem tells you the meat is “OU”, it may be OU-Israelapproved, which is fine, but it cannot be OU-Israel schita since todate, there has not been any.4. If you expect a mashgiach timidi in your OU mehadrin restaurant,then you are out of luck in some cases.5. Based on what I saw at Papagaio, the kitchen operating without amashgiach, it is difficult to say if OU-Israel satisfies ‘bishulyisrael’ for sephardim, which hold by the stringent rulings of theBeit Yosef. Rav Minsky assures me all OU-Israel establishments arebishul yisrael for both ashkenazim and sephardim.6. There are many many emails that have come in regarding OU chickens,sold under the Fleish name. I mention this so readers do not think Ihave ignored this. I just prefer not to address the matter at thistime.7. Without exception! Any and every hotel mashgiach and rav I spokewith, referring to hotels that the OU-Israel has claimed to be underits supervision, at least three, maintain the OU-Israel has not addeda thing towards mehadrin level kashrus and it appears the organizationis taking a free ride off the services of the J. Rabbinate hechsher,both regular and mehadrin, as well as the reputations of the finerabbonim and mashgichim in those very same hotels.

****For questions please send me an email at . Iwill do my best to respond.To comment, please see the article on the website and insert yourcomment at the end of the article.Yechiel SpiraPlease pass this around and encourage others to join this freeinformative service to help get the word out on kashrut in EretzYisrael. To join the JKN mailing list, visit the website. ****Baruch Hashem, a growing number of kosher alert organizations aroundthe world are using this material.Anyone is free to distribute it, but not for commercial use. If youopt to use material, it must be accompanied with the footer “JerusalemKosher News – -”.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Rabanut shechita in Chutz Lu'aretz

Monday, August 10, 200920 Av 5769
Chief Rabbinate Schita in Argentina

The following is a translation of an article appearing in the shabbosYediot Achronot “Musaf Shabbat” magazine, written by Techiya Barak.Mashgiach kashrus Shimon Tzuberi realized he may be better offremaining silent, but he could not, compelled to report what he saw.The incident occurred when he was part of a Chief Rabbinate of Israelteam, a team of shochtim sent to prepare meat for import to EretzYisrael.Tzuberi saw a piece of meat which he felt was not treibered (de-veined) in accordance to halacha, compelling to file a report.“Turmoil resulted and even before completing our assignment, I wasordered to return home” he explained.

“Upon my return, I informed anumber of rabbonim of the situation, calling for a halachicinvestigation into the matter”.Taking part in the investigation were Rav Yaakov Saban, who heads theNational Kashrut Division, Rav Ezra Refael Hariri, who heads the unitoverseeing schita abroad and the importation of meat. “They asked meto explain exactly what I saw, and I did just that. After this, I wasno longer sent abroad for schita”.Tzuberi approached a number of rabbonim, seeking their assistance andfollowing their intervention, he was sent abroad. He reports that insubsequent trips abroad, he documented kashrus inadequacies. Heexplains that he began hearing there were problems with his conduct,explaining in one case, he was accused of arguing with a passenger ona flight. “I was shocked” he explains, deciding to send letters to anumber of rabbis to intervene on his behalf. After a year, he was informed that a hearing would be held.

He arrived well-prepared, armedwith a letter from El Al that there was no such occurrence, nodisturbance involving Tzuberi and another passenger.During the hearing, Tzuberi explains the accusations leveled againsthim made him quite emotional, becoming agitated. Allegations includedan accusation that his hand trembled, which would render him unsuitedto continue as a shochet (ritual slaughterer). He became so agitatedthat he was offered a glass of water. While holding the glass it waspointed out “see, you are trembling” to which he explained this wasthe result of his temporary agitated state. He understood that he hadbeen set up.Following the hearing he received a letter that informed him that dueto his condition, he is no longer qualified to be part of any teamtraveling abroad for schita. Interestingly, the letter did not mentionhis qualifications to continue schita in Israel.

Tzuberi remained determined to reverse the ruling, calling RabbiHariri repeatedly while seeing physicians and obtaining medicaldocumentation that he does not have a tremor in his hands.Tzuberi began contacting rabbis of stature; people he hoped would bewilling to assist him, a battle that has been ongoing for almost adecade. One can count on one hand the number of times Tzuberi wasincluded in a team heading abroad for schita during recent years.“It was not Sabag or I who disqualified him but the rabbis who gavehim [the glass of] water to test him, determining he has a tremor,states Rabbi Hariri. “We also suspended the team leader for failing tonotify us of the tremor. He is however successful as a treiborer (onewho removes forbidden veins and fats as part of koshering process).

Inaddition, he is not a pleasant person to work with. On more than oneoccasion, importers refused to work with him”.The Chief Rabbinate’s Diaspora Schita Unit might be the last place onewould expect to find such conduct and arguments, but this is not thecase. Some of the stories are a juicy as the steaks that receive akashrut stamp, legitimately so or otherwise.An investigation conducted by Musaf Yediot reveals numerous storiesover the years in which mashgichim report problems with the kashrus ofmeat slaughtered abroad. Some of those involved were ‘grounded’ whileothers found themselves in different departments. Others, likeTzuberi, were compelled to defend themselves against allegations.Allegations against employees who filed complaints include oneofficial disqualifying meat intentionally while another employee isalleged to be conducting a romance with a non-Jewish female. A thirdemployee is accused of running around naked. A protest and hungerstrike held in recent months failed to result in any significantchange.

The personal situation of the Chief Rabbinate employees’ aside, thetales have widespread ramifications, with a survey showing 65% of theJewish Israeli population eats kosher and 40% demand a rabbinicalhechsher. 55% of the meat in Israel is slaughtered in factoriesabroad, 60,000 tons of meat imported from various locations abroad.Some of the shochtim report they have begun slaughtering cattle fortheir families, and they have stopped eating meat, even with the bestof hechsherim. They explain some of the meat imported into Israel isindeed questionable regarding its kashrus, not to mention actualtreif.An importer wishing to bring meat into Israel contact Rabbi Sabag andRabbi Hariri, the former’s subordinate. Most of the slaughterhousesare located in South America, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.There are however slaughterhouses in Australia, the United States,Ireland and China as well.Teams dispatched by the Chief Rabbinate are made up of a team leaderand an assistant, who are responsible for the operation.

They mustultimately determine if meat is kosher and in adherence to thestandard permitting it to carry the stamp “Kosher by the ChiefRabbinate of Israel”. Other members of the team include shochtim,inspectors [of the various body organs following slaughter] andmashgichim.The teams are generally sent for months at a time, depending on thenumber of cattle to be slaughtered. The teams are selected bydepartment heads. Their salaries travel and other expenses must bepaid by the importer, hence part of the problem. Importers may requestto remove or include any team member, but the ultimate decision ismade by the Rabbanut.This is a recipe for conflict at times since the shochtim are beingpulled in opposite directions at times, by the Rabbinate and the meatimporters.

A shochet that disqualifies to many cattle may find himselfcausing too great a loss to the importer who pays his salary. This mayresult in an importer requesting that a particular shochet notaccompany a team in the future.Problems date back somewhat, even to a case in 1995 in which ashochet, who is no longer alive heard rumors that questionable meatwas imported, meat that was purchased by a Bnei Brak yeshiva. Theshochet got hold of some of the meat to inspect it, only to find thatsome of the prohibited fats were not removed.He summoned Rabbi Shlomo Machpud Shlita, who today heads the YorehDeah kashrus agency, and he was seen on hidden camera [on film whichis on file with Yediot] checking the meat, confirming the prohibitedfats were indeed present. At the time, Rabbi Machpud was a posek forthe Chief Rabbinate, one who is responsible for halachic rulings.“18 tons of this meat arrived in Israel. Bnei Brak yeshiva studentsate it” the shochet explained. He read the printing on the cartonwhich attested to the high standard, even paying more for the meat,under the supervision of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. Why dupeyeshiva students?

The meat should not have been imported to Israel”.Rabbi Machpud agreed.The shochet brought the video to the Chief Rabbinate. His friend,Michael Ben-Shimol claims he was threatened and instructed toimmediately destroy the video. The shochet feared being blacklistedand ousted, complying with instructions, destroying the video. Twoyears ago, prior to his death, he asked his good friend that followinghis death to please make sure the video gets to the correct people.It appears not much has changed. One inspector, Leon (not his realname), in his 60s, who is responsible for inspecting animals followingschita in South America recently detected many problems. Sincedocumenting problems with kashrut, there have been complaints againsthim, including allegations that he was accompanied by a female whenseen drinking. He is now at home, unemployed.Leon explains that he was employed for 20 years, never encountering aproblem with complaints leveled against him. In one of his visits toS. America, he witnessed non-kosher animal parts being moved to a baglabeled kosher. During that very same visit, a non-Jew was taken andappointed as the mashgiach. Leon explains that needless to say therewere problems.

Once he began reporting, his headaches began.“In the last place I worked in S. America, I saw meats with prohibitedfats that were not removed. I was also shocked that out of thousandsof cattle, not a single one exhibiting marks from the schita thatdisqualified it, something that simply does not happen. After all,angels were not slaughtering the animals”.Worst of hall Leon explains “is the fact that there were threeshochtim as required by the Chief Rabbinate, but only one worked, forconsecutive hours. The others were elsewhere. The schita could nothave been in adherence to strict standards and of this, halacha warnsus. Simply too many cattle for one shochet alone. I informed asupervisor who promised to take corrective action, which he did. Heplaced a watchman at the door of the slaughter chamber so wheneversomeone spotted me, they were alerted.

On one particular day, when theimporter was present, I told him everything. He warned me that if Imake trouble, then will oust him and me as well”.When Leon returned home he spoke with Rabbi Hariri. He explained thata complaint was lodged against him for allegedly being in a nightclubwith a female.“A few months ago, I went to see a friend. On my route I passed anightclub and it was open. I saw some of the members of our teaminside playing pool. There were four women in their general area,skimpily dressed I might add. Later one, when I passed the area again,this time with my friend, they noticed me and realized I saw them.They threw the pools sticks and ran”.“This behavior is most unacceptable. People responsible for kashrutare compelled to be G-d fearing, without a character stain. The storyI told they turned around and used against me.

I told Rabbi Hariri andasked that he investigate the facts. At some point he came back andtold me that he is droping his allegations against me, but months havepassed and I have yet to be reassigned. Others, like me, have citedkashrut problems but I am not aware what actions have been takenagainst them. I will state with absolute certainty that they aredeceiving the public regarding the kashrut of meat that is importedfrom abroad”.A similar unpleasant experience is recorded by Rachamim (fictitiousname), a shochet and post-schita inspector with over 20 yearsexperience in the field of schita of cattle for the Chief Rabbinate.He documented inadequacies in the kashrus while operating in Brazil,reporting to his direct supervisor, but unaware what correctiveactions were taken, if any.The real action began upon his return however, when Rachamim beganhearing stories of how he was intoxicated while in Brazil, removed hisclothing and paraded around nude in the presence of a female maid.Later on it was learned the team leader reported on this in a lettersent to Rabbi Hariri.Rachamim filed a libel suit against the team leader.

Judge NoamSolberg seemed to have a difficult time determining who was tellingthe truth. He rejected the suit, explaining the team leader did speakagainst his subordinate, but then justified his actions since he wasresponsible to report on the performance of all members of the team tothe Rabbinate. During the legal proceeding, one of the shochtimclaimed that Rav Hariri called him to his room and rebuked him for hisreport favoring Rachamim during the legal process.Rachamim recorded his conversation with the shochet and then turned tothe civil service commissioner. According to one member of the staff,attorney Gilat Shoham, in her report, the content of the recordingraises fears of an attempt to interfere with an investigation.Rachamim was questioned on suspicion of intentionally seeking tointerfere with investigators.

The prosecutor decided to close the casedue to lack of evidence. In the very same conversation with theshochet, Rav Hariri instructed him “to tell the entire truth in thematter” and certainly, he did not seek to dismiss him from hisposition.One of the problems is that Rabbi Hariri not only concerns himselfwith kashrus issues, but with advancing the interests of importerstoo. Two years ago, Rabbi Hariri invited a number of importers asguests to his daughter’s wedding. They sat at a table together, peoplewho he maintains a professional relationship with him, but theynonetheless received pampering and special attention despite anobvious conflict of interest. This behavior is contrary to theguidelines governing government employees.In his response, Rabbi Hariri explains he only invited the importersafter consulting with and receiving the approval of the ChiefRabbinate’s legal advisor. The rabbi insists they were no treated anydifferently than other guests, adding at the wedding of his seconddaughter, they were not invited.Other problems include requests filed with the Prime Minister’s Officeto approve travel abroad by Sabag and Hariri. Over recent years, theyrequest approval for travel to meat factories abroad, adding theflights would be covered by the importers. The two traveled around theworld dozens of times, including Australia, Paraguay, France, Brazil,Argentina and more. Each flight was thousands of dollars, in additionto lodging and other expenses, all picked up by the importers.

One iscompelled to address the obvious conflict of interests, just how canthe rabbis disqualify meat from these importers who are funding theirtravel around the world.One team leader explains how Rav Hariri appeared in a factory inParaguay to inspect the schita on location. “In essence, he was notthere for a long time and just asked a number of questions and I wasshocked by them. I prepared him a number of sandwiches and he left [ona trip]”.According to Hariri, trips abroad are divided into two categories, toinspect new factories, at the expense of the importer, and to inspectthe kashrus of an operation that is already approved, at the expenseof the Rabbinate. He explains that it is entirely possible that onthis particular trip, when they traveled to inspect a new factory,that the made a stopover to visit and existing operation. This wouldbe likely since each trip abroad requires applications and approval,adding the ‘trip’ mentioned earlier was a onetime event during travelsto visit factories. He mentioned one trip to Argentina which wasaccompanied by a vacation trip, which he paid for out of pocket. “Attimes, members of the team prepare me sandwiches at their owninitiative” he explains, adding “who knows if kosher food is availableon the flight”.The Movement for Quality Government involved itself in the matter oftravel abroad. Avitar Amira turned to the Chief Rabbinate legalcounsel in 2007, attorney Shimon Ulman, pointing out that trips fundedby importers for kashrut inspectors results in a serious conflict ofinterests. He questioned what action would be taken to address theproblem.

Ulman responded in April 2008, explaining he has beenauthorized to introduce a ruling that would permit the Rabbinate toincur expenses. “I hope to complete this process by the end of 2008”he concluded. Over a year has passed and the situation has not changedwith Ulman admitting efforts to date have failed, adding all attemptsto establish a new entity between the Chief Rabbinate and importersresults in a significant increase in the cost factor.In 2004, ousted shochtim band together and signaled they were movingto the courts, prompting Hariri to take to the waves on chareidiradio, announcing anyone going to the secular courts instead of torabbis does not belong among us. Their actions he explainedstrengthened the feeling they were unsuited to work in the ChiefRabbinate as shochtim. His words were met with sharp criticism by thestate’s civil service commissioner.

Hariri explained that while he is a civil servant, he is a frumchareidi Jew and compliance with halacha must remain his firstpriority. Shochtim explain that Hariri makes the decisions as to whoworks and who does not and who travels and who is ousted, left behind.That is the case with Reuven Said, who awaits a hearing with Sabag andHariri since 2005. Previously, he was a treiborer (de-veiner) inParaguay but after complaining of substandard kashrut, he has beengrounded. He was flown home in the middle of an assignment andeventually, left his position as a result.“There were many shortcomings in the factory” Said explains, I saw non-Jews removing part of the animal without a mashgiach present, and Iinformed the team leader, but nothing was done. I saw non-Jewscarrying non-kosher organs which were then mixed among their koshercounterparts. Nothing was done. This made everything not kosher. Oneday I saw the team leader sign off on a non-kosher animal as kosher. Ipointed this out to him to make certain he knew. He gave me a look andthen insisted the inspector of the internal organs erred, as if nowthe animal was indeed kosher. I saw non-kosher parts placed in bagsmarked kosher. Once again I pointed this out, but this time, heshouted, ‘it’s not your business. Do your work.’”“From then on, the attitude changed and I was the subject of ridicule.After a number of incidents, the team leader informed me that I wasbeing returned home to Israel”. Said quickly phoned Hariri to informhim, demanding an explanation for sending him home.Raful told him that he was nothing and that he was not performingsatisfactorily and therefore, was being ousted from the team. Haririinformed him that the team leader wants him out.

In the heat of theargument, the following was stated.After ten years as a shochet for the Rabbinate abroad, Menachem(fictitious name) had enough, unwilling to continue. The substandardlevel of kashrus in two factories was totally unacceptable and he wasunwilling to tolerate any longer. He decided he no longer wanted anypart of this operation, and on his last assignment, he even paid forhis own return trip and left the team early, heading back to EretzYisrael.“During all the years in which I worked as a mashgiach and knifeinspector in various factories abroad, I encountered kashrut problems.Nevertheless, it was possible to find solutions and somehow continue”,explained Menachem. “This time, the flippant attitude of the team leftme with the feeling there was nowhere to go. I felt that no one cares.It got to the point I would not eat from the meat we slaughtered”.What were some of the kashrut deficiencies?Two uncertified shochtim were permitted to slaughter cattle. This ismost serious. When the team leader was informed, he responded “I do asI please”. In addition, the local non-Jewish workers used electricprods on the cattle prior to schita, using such strong shocks that thecattle were downed onto the ground. The force used was at the veryleast three times that permitted in accordance to halacha. This placedthe entire schita in doubt explains Menachem, but once again, the teamleader would not address the issues.“Another thing, according to halacha, a shochet may not inspect hisown knife.

We usually line up one behind the other and each checks theother’s knife. The knife must be perfect to avoid any unnecessarysuffering to the animal. The pace was so intense that each shochetinspected a knife for a quarter of a second. The halacha says one mustconcentrate on the act, not perform under duress or when one is tired.They did whatever they pleased.“I sent an SMS text message to Hariri in which I stated ‘there areproblems which compromise the integrity of the kashrut. I await yourimmediate reply’. Hariri phoned me and asked ‘do you want theimporters not to select you?’ to which I responded, ‘what’s my job, toworry about importers or kashrut?’ once again, when word got out thatI was a trouble maker, I was left out with colleagues not including mein the group, sitting away from me during meals and so forth.“A number of days later I returned home and I asked Sabag and Haririfor a halachic inquiry in the presence of the rabbonim poskim(halachic authority) of the Chief Rabbinate.

When we entered the roomI realized it was only the three of us. Even those against whom Icomplained were not present. They already left for work abroad onceagain”.Since then, Menachem does not work and has lost touch with colleaguesin the department. Menachem however is content, explaining he is notabout to rubber stamp meat as kosher when he knows the meat isproblematic.He concludes in a letter to Hariri and Sabag about two months ago,writing “simply one who wishes to survive on the team must hearnothing, say nothing and see nothing”. One veteran shochet added “ifthey slaughter donkeys (not kosher) and use forbidden animals don’tsay anything for if you do, you are in trouble”.Who is the Boss?In 2001 shochet Michael Ben-Shimol and two colleagues turned to theHigh Court of Justice, demanding to see their personal files as wellas the criteria of the Rabbinate’s unit which performs schita abroad.They simply wished to understand what criteria are used to assignsomeone to a specific position and what guidelines exist to send ateam member home prematurely. The shochtim were alleging favoritismand discriminatory practices in reaching such decisions.A number of years earlier, Ben-Shimol was working in schita inIreland, reporting that immediately following schita, the animal wasshot, as per the chief veterinarian on location, who was concernedwith needless suffering. I explained that halacha dictates if onewishes to shoot the animal, one must wait a few minutes but they didnot listen and the team leader was not strong enough to oppose thechief veterinarian.

I stood my ground, insisting the animals were nolonger kosher.“Upon my return, I requested a reassignment and that was followed byallocations hat I was intentionally causing animals to become treif(not kosher). It is simple. One who complains and reports kashrutproblems must then face an array of charges. One goes with women andthe other drinks. A third has problems because of hand tremors while Iintentionally render animals unfit. For four years I sent letters toeveryone and did everything possible, but no response. Finally, Iturned to the Supreme Court”.During the court hearing an agreement was reached that was given thestatus of a court ruling. Ben-Shimol received is personal file, thecriteria for the unit’s operations, and that he would be reassigned toteams abroad, three times, on probation.“Hariri: “An importer writes that he intentionally renders animals un-kosher and then continues to work. True he was not travelingregularly, but he did go abroad but importers do not want him.

Thehearing panel decided his qualifications must be retested in light ofthe allegations against him”.About 5 years ago, 14 employees, including Ben-Shimol, turned to theTel Aviv Labor Court. They filed a lawsuit against the Rabbinate. Theyclaimed discriminatory practices were standard and that those whocited problem were subject to retaliation.The court absolved the Rabbinate of responsibility, stating theemployer was not the Rabbinate but the importer. The court made thecase a precedent-setting affair, ruling on who the employer is. In aJuly 2008 ruling, Justice Chagit Saguy agreed with the shochtim,giving support to claims of discrimination and retaliatory practices,but ultimately agreed that the employer is the importer, not theRabbinate. A group of shochtim appealed to the National Labor Court,stating if the importer is the employee, there is a definite conflictof interests. The court’s ruling is pending.About a month ago, a group of shochtim held a protest and hungerstrike in Yerushalayim. Hariri followed the events and photographedsome of the shochtim sleeping on the street, at 1:00am, after a numberof days of a vigil at the scene outside the Rabbinate. They weresummoned to a meeting with Sabag and Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar Shlita.The meeting was cordial and a full investigation into allegations waspromised. The protestor closed shop, folded the protest tent andreturned home.A number of days later, in the mail, the minutes of the meetingarrived and they noticed much of what they said was not recorded inthe transcript. Issues pertaining to substandard kashrut were omitted.They realized they are alone and have no one to rely on.Rabbi Ezra Refael Hariri in his response states all allegations ofkashrut deficiencies were investigated thoroughly. In the last year heexplains, guidelines have been published stating exactly whatqualifications are required for a mashgiach. He adds that they arealways working to ensure the quality of personnel, their professionalexpertise as well as making certain they are God-fearing individuals.

He assures us that all allegations of kashrut problems are probed andwhen necessary, rabbonim poskim are involved. He adds that probes asconducted as thoroughly as possible, adding there are no hiddencameras and they do not possess the ability to monitor every teammember constantly.“I do not recall ever saying regarding any probe ‘why is this yourbusiness?’ If a person seeks to make a personal issue a halachicmatter, and presents it as such, we may not halt production.When there are allegations that animals are shocked or shot Iimmediately phone the team leader. Such allegations would never beignored”.The following response was released by attorney Shimon Ulman, theChief Rabbinate legal advisor.“We are talking about a group of 10 people here of some 700 employeesinvolved in schita abroad. For reasons that are not dependent on us,importers refuse to use them. This due to professional issues thathave been documented including an inability to work as part of a team,as well as a lack of tznius (modesty). They are not included in teamsworking abroad as per the decision of the head of the schita unit.There were a number of attempts to give them additional chances, butit simply did not work out.

We should not take the word of this small number of disgruntledemployees, who by the nature of the situation are distorting thefacts. It is understood that and issues of kashrut are probed asrequired, and have been unfounded in reality. The most mehadrin andpristine kashrut agencies are connected with the teams against whomthey are trying to taint, without justification and contrary to thefacts on the ground. Their allegations of kashrut inadequacies againstthe state kashrut mechanism are simply baseless and unfounded andsimply intentional slander, and therefore, difficult to address thisconcoction of allegations.It is very east to place a doubt on the state-run kashrut mechanism,upon which most citizens rely, and this is done without bringingfactual evidence and documents. Any allegation of kashrut inadequaciesis probed in-depth to make certain the public does not receivesubstandard products, to safeguard them from such a possibility. Thecomplaints of this band of shochtim have been reviewed numerous times,in-depth, by investigators of the State Civil Service Commission aswell, and were deemed as unfounded.

NOTE: I pondered publishing this but decided that it appeared in thenation’s leading newspaper, backed by evidence amassed by Yediot,thereby rendering it newsworthy and perhaps incumbent upon me to bringit to the attention of the English-speaking public.