Toronto

Woodbridge company ordered to pay $25,000 for selling non-kosher cheese as kosher

A Woodbridge, Ont. food distribution company has been ordered to pay fines of $25,000 after it sold non-kosher shredded cheddar cheese as kosher to two Jewish youth camps in the province two years ago.

Creation Foods Company pleaded guilty and was convicted of violating Food and Drugs Act

A Woodbridge, Ont. food distribution company has been ordered to pay fines of $25,000 after it sold non-kosher shredded cheddar cheese to two Jewish youth camps in the province two years ago. (Facebook)

A Woodbridge, Ont. food distribution company has been ordered to pay fines of $25,000 after it sold non-kosher shredded cheddar cheese as kosher to two Jewish youth camps two years ago.

Creation Foods Company pleaded guilty and was convicted of violating section 31(1) of the Food and Drugs Act on June 22nd in an Ontario court in Newmarket. The company delivered the cheese to camps in Ennismore, near Peterborough, and Haliburton. 

In a July 5th statement, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which investigated the company, said Creation Foods Company sold the non-kosher cheese "by means of a forged kosher certificate."

The CFIA said the case is the first in Canada brought before a provincial court related to the misrepresentation of a kosher food product.

"The fine is significant and may lead to improved future compliance under this statute," the CFIA said.

"This case, and the conviction, reinforces the CFIA's commitment to food safety, and demonstrates how the agency takes issues related to food fraud seriously. Investigation and legal action will be taken, when warranted."
The legitimate kosher symbol that appears on Canadian products. (Kashruth Council of Canada)

In June 2015, the Kashruth Council of Canada, which provides kosher supervision to about 1,000 companies, brought the forged certificate to the attention of the CFIA after Creation Foods delivered cheese to one of the camps.

Its mozarella cheese bore a COR symbol, which is the letters COR inside an oval, certifying that the food was kosher, while its cheddar cheese did not. 

The kosher supervisor at the camp contacted Creation Foods, which responded by sending a certificate to verify that the cheese was kosher. The supervisor then sent the certificate to the council, which determined that it was fake, and the council contacted authorities. 
A worker at Creation Foods Company loads boxes into the back of a company van. (YouTube)

"The kosher certificate was forged by Creation Foods," Richard Rabkin, managing director of the council.

The CFIA said the cheese sold to both camps did not meet the requirements of the kashruth, which means the product was not prepared and handled in accordance with Jewish dietary rules.

Rabkin said the case is significant.

"We're definitely pleased that this matter has come to a conclusion," he said Monday. "We're thankful the CFIA and the Canadian judicial system prosecuted this case. We felt that this case was very important to kosher consumers."

What constitutes kosher 

In the case of kosher cheese, strict rules must be followed, Rabkin said. The enzyme that coagulates the cheese must be of a vegetable source, all other components in the cheese must be kosher, and the coagulating enzyme needs to be poured into the cheese by a kosher supervisor at the manufacturing plant.

"It's important to get into the mindset of a kosher consumer. We take very seriously the idea that you are what you eat," he said.

"Eating something that is not kosher affect who you are. It's a spiritual poison. It's a breach of trust. It's a violation of your rights." 
A shipment of food products in the Creation Foods Company plant in Woodbridge. (YouTube)

Rabkin said the CFIA, by pursuing the case, is protecting Canadian consumers from food crimes.

"We're hoping that this is the first and last time it will have to prosecute a case like this," he said.

Rabkin said the case shows the CFIA takes food fraud seriously and that Canadian food manufacturers are required by law to represent their products honestly.

Creation Foods has not yet responded to a CBC Toronto request for comment. The camps are Camp Moshava and Camp Northland B'nai Brith.