∙ KosherPassport     ∙ Overview     The Risks     ∙ Common Solutions     ∙K-Passport Solution     ∙Risk Management     ∙In Conclusion

The Risks

What are the risks that the kosher food you have just bought is in fact counterfeit and far from kosher?

A Google search for 'counterfeit food' should convince you that 'fake' food is a major world-wide issue. Repeat with a search of 'counterfeit kosher food' and see the list of fake kosher cheeses, meats, drinks, and lots more.

Indeed, why should anyone expect kosher food to be any different? Where there is money to be made, counterfeiters will thrive!

Kashrus Organizations do a superb job ensuring that the foods produced under their names are indeed kosher. But what they can't stop is the production of counterfeit non‑kosher foods dressed up in the same packaging as the original.

Indeed, kosher food is a lucrative target for counterfeiters. All supervised kosher food is sold at a price premium compared to regular non‑kosher equivalents. This is inevitable, and is due to the extra staff costs of on-site supervision and the use of checked and tightly controlled ingredients.

Often there are also significant travel and accommodation costs. The actual production processes typically cost more as overall production speeds are slower and the ingredients more expensive.

The 'premium' for kosher supervised food can be from just a few percent to several hundred percent.

Great Business Opportunity

Meat is the highest risk item with fish and milk products somewhere in the middle. When one considers that a 20 kg (44 pound) box of raw kosher meat may have a retail value of around $500 while the equivalent non‑kosher price would be just $200, the temptation to pass‑off non‑kosher meat as kosher is virtually irresistible!

The profit margin for the sale of a 20 kg box of non‑kosher meat is in the region of $100 while passing‑off that same meat as kosher could result in a $400 profit! Irresistible!

Fish and cheese products, while not providing such extreme profits to a forger, are still very attractive targets as they are much easier to pass off and have a much longer shelf life.

We can all begin to see the phenomenal business opportunity that exists for the introduction of non‑kosher produce into the regular kosher distribution chain.

We refer to this as a 'business opportunity' as it is exactly that! What for us is a terrible risk, for the unscrupulous it is indeed a great business opportunity!

Running Blind

We spoke recently to an Australian importer who had just received a consignment of cheeses from Denmark with a Hechsher from a premium kashrus authority.

Consider how he would have gone about ordering these items. Typically, an agent would contact him about some new product, or he would contact an agent to find him a particular product he needed. The agent would then track down one or more sources for such a product.

The Australian importer will then, either directly or via the agent, order the product from a distributor or wholesaler. The deal is all done via the phone, email or fax. None of the people in this 'chain' actually have any direct knowledge of the authenticity of the products that turn up in Australia. They are all sincere and honest people, but they only know what they are told and they can only check what is written on the packet, or the bulk packaging.

As for the consumer himself, what assurance does he have that the cheese he is taking from the supermarket shelf is what the wrapper says it is?

With the global nature of food production today, it is impossible to determine the actual origin of a product - unless the police or health authorities take a hand in the matter. All a purchaser has to guide him is what is written on the package, and what is written on the package is obviously no proof of authenticity.

Israel Rabbinate Alerts

You can get an idea of the issues by looking at frauds detected regularly in Israel - which obviously is only a small part of the total picture.

The Rabanut in Israel publishes regular Kashrus bulletins advising about breaches in Kashrus.

Current and recent Alert bulletins can be found here.

Each bulletin typically contains many alerts and in recent years there have been between 12 to 30 bulletins per year.

[Click here to download and view bulletin 9 dated 13 June 2017 which documents a very serious case of counterfeit meat products with kashrus logos from the Israel Rabbinate.]

The Tip of the Iceberg

We all hear occasionally of cases where forgeries are discovered. [See the sidebar on the right]

[Unfortunately, forgery events are more frequent than we think. We don't hear of them as generally such cased are publicised by the Kashrus Authorities only where there is an absolute need to do so].

When we do hear, we are upset, but we soon give a sigh of relief - "the thief has been caught, the problem has been solved" - and move on.

Are we not being rather naive in thinking that these are isolated cases?

In the case of the Arak forgery detailed on the right, the differences on the back label was so great that it must have been shear incompetence on the part of the forgers, strengthening the belief that competent and careful forgers don't get caught - they thrive for a very long time.

The Vodka forgery was discovered via a tip-off- again an exceptional case - not as a matter of routine.

Experience of general counterfeit goods, and common sense, tells us that the vast majority of counterfeit products go undetected, as otherwise the forgers would have been out of business a long time ago.

In countries other than Israel, such as USA and UK, where there is no central Kashrus authority to collate such incidents, how many such forgeries are out there undetected by anyone!

Combine that with the reticence of individual Kashrus Authorities to publicise anything other that essential warnings, the public is in blissful ignorance of the real risks.

Forgers Have Nothing to Fear!

Often ignored in these types of discussions is the fact that it is extremely rare (virtually unheard of) for a kashrus counterfeiter to be prosecuted.

If the food is a danger to public health then the police or other authorities may prosecute, but this is hardly ever the case.

Typically the forging activity is not deemed to be a crime. A civil prosecution is fraught with problems, with a very low chance of success. Anyway, which Kashrus Authority has the funds to start such a prosecution!

A forger has very little to lose and a lot to gain.

Israel: July 2018: Bootleg Vodka May Cause Blindness

Which is the fake?
Click on the image above to enlarge it.

Acting on a tip .... many boxes of bottles suspected of being forged were found. "Laboratory tests found that methanol was found to be 20 times higher than the standard for alcoholic beverages. Methanol can cause blindness, nerve damage and even death."

The forgers had no problems in replicating the Eida Kashrus 'seals'!

Israel: April 2016: Bootleg Arak May Cause Blindness

Which is the fake?
Click on the image above to enlarge it.

Click here for the full story on

"The Israeli Police break up Arak bootlegging ring. Methanol was used in producing the counterfeit Arak, which may cause blindness. Here's how to check to make sure your Arak isn't fake."

The article shows several minor differences between the genuine bottles (on the left) and the counterfeit bottles.

Some of the differences were more obvious (some black text background in place of white) while others were very subtle (bottle top printing).

However, most importantly, none of the differences are likely to have been spotted by a normal purchaser.

Even if some change had been noticed, it would have been put down to normal production changes rather than suspecting a forgery.

The forgers had no problems in replicating the various Kashrus 'seals'!

Meat and Fish Alerts

Several examples of alerts from site:

Click on the images below to enlarge.

Link for Alert 1 - Meat

Link for update on Alert 1

Alert 1a        Alert 1b
Meat Package

Carefully read the two articles via the links above and come to your own conclusions as to how a reputable Jerusalem supermarket comes to be selling Eida "sealed" meat which the Eida says is not theirs.

Then check the link below which relates to fish

Link for Alert 2 - Fish
Alert 2

Fish Alert 3 on 15 November 2017

Fish Alert 3 on 15 November 2017

Important: The examples above have just been selected to illustrate the serious nature of these forgeries and do not reflect in any way on the Kashrus Authorities involved. Such instances occur for all Agencies.