By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
This blog has discussed several examples of the criminalization of activities in the United States that would be considered by many to be either civil in nature or based upon manners or simple transgressions. Selling certain types of hot dogs could actually, according to state law, be considered not only violations of the Consumer Protection Act, but also Gross Misdemeanors.
Washington enacted the Sale of Kosher Food Products Act of 1985 which prohibits the use of the words “Kosher” or “Kosher Style” in selling foods that are not kosher according to state definition. A possible example of this could allegedly involve a national restaurant chain, Five Guys, which has franchises in several locations in Washington State. In Washington something as ordinary as serving a Kosher Style hot dog could be considered a crime.
Five Guys Enterprises LLC, with its company headquarters located in Lorton, Virginia offers a basic, and delicious, menu with offerings of Burgers, Fries, Dogs, Sandwiches, and Drinks with their burgers consisting of “100% fresh beef – no fillers or preservatives.” Franchises are located in over sixteen locations in the state. One of their products is a “Kosher Style” hot dog. While the company has tried to differentiate on its corporate website between Kosher and Kosher Style, the latter being the name of one of its hot dogs, it still might be contrary to Washington law and could fall victim to criminalizing ordinary acts; the serving of a hot dog.
The state legislature passed the Sale of Kosher Food Products Act of 1985, codified in Chapter 69.90 RCW, to address the consumer protection issue of serving products marketed as Kosher that actually are not. Many consumers rely on the labeling of kosher foods to be true products prepared and served according to, among other things, religious teachings and practices. In addition to the legislature making violations a consumer protection act issue, it went an extra step in making such practices a Gross Misdemeanor. Gross Misdemeanors are punishable by up to a year in jail. Corporations in the state can be held liable for crimes.
The elements of The Act are as follows:
Unless the context clearly requires otherwise, the definitions in this section apply throughout this chapter.
(1) “Food product” includes any article other than drugs, whether in raw or prepared form, liquid or solid, or packaged or unpackaged, and which is used for human consumption.
(2) “Kosher” means a food product which has been prepared, processed, manufactured, maintained, and sold in accordance with the requisites of traditional Jewish dietary law.
(3) “Person” includes individuals, partnerships, corporations, and associations.
Sale of “kosher” and “kosher style” food products prohibited if not kosher — Representations — Penalty.
(1) No person may knowingly sell or offer for sale any food product represented as “kosher” or “kosher style” when that person knows that the food product is not kosher and when the representation is likely to cause a prospective purchaser to believe that it is kosher. Such a representation can be made orally or in writing, or by display of a sign, mark, insignia, or simulation.
(2) A person violating this section is guilty of a gross misdemeanor.
A violation of this chapter shall constitute a violation of the Consumer Protection Act, Chapter 19.86 RCW.
The Menu at one Washington Franchisee, and the Corporate Website, lists “Kosher Style Hot Dog”. And, the company states the following about its product:
What is a ‘kosher style’ hot dog? Is your beef kosher?
We use Hebrew National hot dogs which are kosher. However, we’ve received feedback in the past from customers who said that although the hot dogs we use are kosher, the way we cook them and serve them is not. As a result, we didn’t want to be misleading since we use buns that contain dairy and in most cases the dogs are cooked on the same grill as our burgers, therefore we decided to call them “kosher style”. Our beef is not kosher.
Your author visited a Five Guys restaurant in Washington and did note that the “Kosher Style” hot dogs are cooked on the same grill as the beef, which would be a mixing of kosher and non-kosher foods in the making of the end product.
The company has made an effort, on the company website at least, to note that these hot dogs are in the style of kosher and not actually kosher, but this might not be enough in Washington.
There are numerous examples of products in the U.S. economy that use the word “Style” to declare that the food product is not actually as pure as might be expected of a product marketed without the word “Style”. Some examples might be “Artisan style breads” or “Honey style sauce” and do not necessarily break Washington’s, other states’ or Federal consumer protection laws. Yet Washington’s legislature decided that “style” was not enough with regard to differentiating kosher foods with non-kosher. It is either Pure or Not-Pure, and criminalized violations.
There are particular sensitivities to uses of kosher or the Islamic halal in various communities and cultures. The issue can be quite significant.
There was a contentious lawsuit filed in Michigan against McDonald’s for allegedly selling halal foods that were not prepared according to Islamic tradition. McDonald’s did not admit fault but during the time of settlement restaurant chains in two locations having a significant Muslim community pulled their “Halal-Friendly” chicken products from their menu. Recently, a controversy has developed with McDonald’s Morocco over the halal issue.
It is certainly difficult to operate a business in numerous states having often greatly varied laws and administrative codes and when serving something as ordinary as a hot dog might possibly constitute a crime; it can make any business worry. Five Guys likely just wants to provide a menu its customers enjoy. Yet given some of the heightened importance of issues relating to core values of particular cultures or religions, sometimes legislatures go about enacting laws having uniquely strong punishments that businesses or individuals might not be aware.
By Darren Smith
The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.
The image of the hot dog is not representative of a Five Guys product and is used for illustrative purposes only.