RCA urges caution on Agriprocessors

An Orthodox rabbinical group urged consumers not to rush to judgment regarding claims against the largest kosher slaughterhouse in the United States.

In a statement released more than three weeks after federal authorities arrested nearly 400 employees of Agriprocessors, the Rabbinical Council of America said it was “concerned” about the situation but urged caution on kosher consumers and critics of the company.

“Given the gravity of the allegations, and the potential impact on the Jewish community and kosher consumers, it would be inappropriate to rush to judgment before all relevant facts are clarified,” the statement said.

While acknowledging the right of consumers to withhold business from Agriprocessors for whatever reason they choose, the RCA urged restraint so as not to “unnecessarily imperil the availability of kosher products and services.”

The RCA also presented a number of what it described as “guiding principles” in dealing with Agriprocessors, whose plant in Postville, Iowa, was the target of a massive immigration raid May 12.

In a thinly veiled swipe at the Conservative movement’s Hekhsher Tzedek initiative, which seeks to certify food products that meet certain ethical benchmarks, the RCA said it would be “unreasonable, impractical and without merit” to expect kosher supervising agencies to make determinations about matters like workplace safety and labor practices.

The RCA also urged supervising agencies that incorporate ethical standards into their contractual arrangements to bear in mind the potential impact on kosher availability and a company’s willingness to improve its record before taking punitive actions.

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