Lawsuit Challenging Hebrew National’s Food’s Kosher Status Revived.

A lawsuit against ConAgra Foods Inc., alleging misleading advertising for its Hebrew National products, was revived on Friday, March 31, 2014 after a federal appeals court found that the case was improperly dismissed last year.

The lawsuit against ConAgra was brought by eleven customers who claimed that ConAgra, and its kosher supervisor, failed to follow proper religious procedures in making its supposedly kosher Hebrew National products.  Hebrew National markets its products as “meet[ing] a higher standard,” being made with “premium cuts of 100 percent kosher beef,” and as being made by a company that “answer[s] to a higher authority.”  In addition to the challenge to Hebrew National’s kosher status, the plaintiffs in the case have also claimed that the company’s marketing practices mislead consumers into thinking they are buying better products to justify the higher prices.

The case was originally brought in May 2012, but was dismissed in January 2013 by U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank. The judge found that he could not rule on whether the Hebrew National products met their claimed kosher standards because evaluating the products’ kosher status “would necessarily intrude upon rabbinical religious autonomy.” However, Chief Judge William Jay Riley, of the Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, reversed Judge Frank’s decision, finding that because the district court did not have jurisdiction to make the decision, the case merely should have been returned to where it began.  As a result, Chief Judge Riley reversed the dismissal, and sent the case back to state court in Dakota County, Minnesota. The case had originally been filed there, but was moved to federal court upon the request of ConAgra.

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