Concerning the kosher certification of Sifto Table Salt
"One group of rabbis even had sold a hekhsher on salt to a Gentile." Harold P. Gastwirt
April 14, 2000

Gary Noseworthy
IMC Salt
Sifto Canada Inc.
5430 Timberlea Boulevard
Mississauga, ON  L4W 2T7

Gary Noseworthy:

I am writing in connection with Sifto Table Salt displaying a Council of Orthodox Rabbis "COR 69" kosher certification on its packaging.

Are you aware that some Jewish authorities have viewed the idea of kosher-certifying table salt as absurd?

The following two excerpts are examples of what appears to be a ridiculing of the idea that salt is susceptible to kosher certification:

After all [...] we don't look for Kosher diaper deodorants, or Kosher bleaches [...].  And tell me, isn't it ridiculous [...] for a group of people who want to promote Kashruth to certify salt and pepper and vinegar [...]?
Allen G. Feld, writing in the Jewish Spectator, in Seymour E. Freedman, The Book of Kashruth: A Treasury of Kosher Facts & Frauds, Bloch Publishing Company, New York, 1970, p. 171, blue emphasis added.

In his analysis of the state of the rabbinate in New York in 1896, Gerson Rosenzweig, the editor of The Hebrew, accused Rabbi Drachman of giving "tens of thousands of hekhsherim."  He called Drachman "... the Dr. so and so who lives uptown and is a rabbi by their standards, but not by ours.  He took the name of Chief Rabbi and made a deal with the butchers and made himself Chief Rabbi overnight."  Rosenzweig claimed that shohatim and butchers who did not observe the Sabbath had bribed the rabbis to approve the kashrut of their meat.  One group of rabbis even had sold a hekhsher on salt to a Gentile.  [...]  He enumerated the hekhsherim which, according to him, they had given on salt, olive oil, soap for washing clothes, and stove polish, and which had been advertised in the Jewish Times, published by Dr. Wechsler, one of the founders of the Council.
Harold P. Gastwirt, Fraud, Corruption, and Holiness: The Controversy Over the Supervision of Jewish Dietary Practice in New York City 1881-1940, Kennikat Press, Port Washington N.Y. and London, 1974, pp. 82-83, blue emphasis added.

Has Sifto been convinced by a reading of the Jewish dietary laws?

In view of the possibility that there is no call within Jewish dietary law for the kosher certification of table salt, it would have been prudent for Sifto to retain independent expert opinion on the question.

Are you aware that there likely exists no evidence that adding the COR 69 label to Sifto Table Salt packaging has increased sales?

The fluctuation in the sale of Sifto Table Salt over time undoubtedly contains an unpredictable or random component, such that it would be impossible to identify which fluctuations could be attributed to kosher certification.  In fact, one has no idea even of when to look for example, news that kosher certification was being considered might precede the announcement of actual certification, so that an upward blip in sales could antedate actual certification by several months; or announcement of certification could cause an upward blip in the days following; or some months following certification, consumers switching to Sifto only after they had used up their existing stocks of salt.  Or should comparison be made to the same time last year, guessing as to what allowance to make for natural growth?  Or should comparison be made to sales of competitors?  One can look at many different things at many different times, and all of them will be subject to multiple interpretations, and all will be inconclusive.  Anyone who believes promotional claims that kosher certification increases sales may be suspected of gullibility.

Are you aware that any possibility of Sifto increasing sales through kosher certification vanishes upon competitors also acquiring kosher certification?

If, as my shopping experience suggests, your chief competitor in the Vancouver area is Windsor Salt produced by The Canadian Salt Company, and if Windsor Salt acquired kosher certification later than did Sifto Salt (as suggested by Windsor Salt's COR 92 as compared to Sifto's COR 69), then wouldn't Windsor's kosher certification have removed all possibility of kosher certification expanding market share for Sifto?

If it is the case that Sifto purchased kosher certification from the Council of Orthodox Rabbis hoping to increase market share, were Sifto's hopes dashed when the Council of Orthodox Rabbis later sold kosher certification to Sifto's main competitor as well?

Are you in agreement with the desirability of truth in labelling?

The meaning of "COR 69" is unknown to the vast majority of purchasers of Sifto Table Salt.  The consumer would be closer to being adequately informed if the word "KOSHER" and the Magen David were added to the certification label, as shown below:

Secrecy in Labelling
Truth in Labelling

Are you in agreement that Sifto is under an obligation to demystify esoteric labelling in this way, or would you hold that Sifto has a right to use its package labelling to pass secret messages to a tiny minority of its consumers (as part of a plan to take money away from the majority, one might add)?  If you feel that the presence of the word "KOSHER" and of the Magen David would lower sales, then does it not follow that the public discovering that "COR 69" signifies kosher certification will lower sales for the same reasons?

Will Sifto offer consumers a kosher-free version of its table salt?

Out of consideration for consumers who might object to a surcharge to support religion added to their grocery bill, particularly when they are not members of that religion, and more particularly when that surcharge is applied covertly, will Sifto provide two versions of its product a version marked with the word "KOSHER" and the Magen David, and a version either labelled "KOSHER-FREE" or simply unlabelled?  Offering both versions for sale side by side would bring two advantages:

(1) It would offer Sifto purchasers a choice of paying the Council of Orthodox Rabbis surcharge or avoiding it.

(2) It would permit Sifto for the first time to measure consumer preference.  That is, if clearly marked kosher and kosher-free versions of Sifto Table Salt were sold side by side, then perhaps the effect of kosher labelling on sales could be determined for the first time.

Of course there exists the danger that bringing to consumers' attention that any Sifto products carry a kosher label might lead to their boycotting all Sifto products, kosher together with kosher-free.

How is Sifto Table Salt made?

I expect that the salt-manufacturing process is an open one, explained in publications available to all, viewable in film documentaries, and accessible to inspection, as for example in public tours of Sifto plants.  I wonder if Sifto will offer the same transparency with respect to the kosher-certification component of its manufacturing process?

Specifically, how has Sifto production been modified so as to comply with Jewish religious laws?  How frequent is rabbinical inspection of Sifto plants, and of what does this inspection consist, and is the nature of this inspection available for viewing on videotape?  What are the scientific or engineering qualifications of the rabbinical inspectors?  Will anyone step forward to defend the proposition that as a result of rabbinical supervision, Sifto Table Salt has become purer or more hygienic or more nutritious?  Is there anyone who will claim that Sifto Table Salt is in any detectable way different following kosher certification from what it was before?

How much does Sifto pay the Council of Orthodox Rabbis?

Could you inform Canadian consumers how much Sifto currently pays the Council of Orthodox Rabbis for the use of the COR 69 label, and how much it has paid over the entire period of kosher certification?

Do you know to what ends Council of Orthodox Rabbis kosher-certification earnings are applied?

Do you have information on how Council of Orthodox Rabbis kosher-certification earnings are distributed, as for example what proportion of them goes toward supporting the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians by the State of Israel, or what proportion goes toward the expansion of Israel's nuclear arsenal, or what proportion goes toward agitating in favor of the prosecution by Canada's mis-named "war crimes unit" of non-Jewish East Europeans for conjectured immigration infractions committed more than half a century ago?

Lubomyr Prytulak