Nissim Sadiklar, the owner of Creation Foods, is denying allegations the company and his son, Kefir, who serves as the firm’s director and vice-president, forged kashruth certificates to pass off non-kosher cheese as kosher.
“It’s not true,” said Nissim Sadiklar, referring to charges reported in the May 9 edition of the Toronto Star. “They didn’t put everything that happened in the story.”
Sadiklar declined further comment, saying the case is before the courts.
The charges against Creation Foods and Kefir Sadiklar were filed in October 2016 and relate to incidents dating back to June 2015.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) alleges that Creation Foods and Kefir Sadiklar passed off non-kosher cheese as kosher by changing one number on a certification document prepared by the Kashruth Council of Canada, which operates using the COR hechsher.
“This is the first case the CFIA has brought before a provincial court related to the misrepresentation of a kosher food product,” the agency stated.
According to the CFIA, Creation Foods prepared “a false document” for shipments of non-kosher Ivanhoe Shredded Old Cheddar Cheese sent to Camp Moshava, near Peterborough, Ont., and Camp Northland, in Haliburton, Ont., in June 2015, and sold the cheeses to the camps as if they were kosher.
None of the charges have yet to be proven in court.
In a written statement provided to The CJN, COR says that the organization used to provide kosher supervision to Creation Foods, “but after a series of violations of the kosher rules, we terminated their kosher certification in 2012.” Subsequently, Creation Foods obtained alternate kosher certification for products they manufacture from two other kosher supervision agencies – MK-Canada Kosher Certification Agency (MK), which is based in Montreal, and Badatz, which is located in Toronto. MK no longer provides kashruth certification for Creation Foods.
Creation and COR have had a rocky relationship for years. In 2014, Sadiklar told The CJN that COR came down hard on him for minor, unintentional infractions of kashruth rules. The fees they wanted to charge him were exorbitant, he said, adding that he paid less for more frequent supervision from Badatz.
In its statement to The CJN, COR said Creation Foods delivered shipments of cheese on June 22, 2015, to Camp Moshava, whose kitchen was under COR’s supervision. Two days later, its mashgiach, or kashruth supervisor, noticed that the cheddar cheese did not have a kosher symbol on the package. A shipment of mozzarella cheese, however, did contain the appropriate kosher symbol.
Creation Foods was notified of the absence of a kosher certificate for the cheddar cheese and “Sadiklar sent (COR’s mashgiach) a COR kosher certificate, which appeared to validate that the non-kosher cheese product as kosher. In actual fact, the cheese was not kosher,” COR’s statement alleges.
When questioned by The CJN, Badatz said it was unaware of any problems with Creation Foods in 2015.
“At no point had the COR contacted Badatz and, to my knowledge, the MK, and advised them of any wrongdoing by Creation,” said Rabbi Moshe Bensalmon, kashruth administrator for Badatz, in an emailed statement to The CJN. “Had they done so, this incident would have been thoroughly investigated immediately. If the COR really cared about the kosher public and felt it was so egregious of a kashruth violation to report them to the CFIA, why would they not notify its then kashruth supervision of MK and Badatz?”
Rabbi Bensalmon suggested the situation could have been avoided.
“The fact that Ivanhoe cheese produces both kosher and non-kosher versions of the same cheese under COR with the same label is a big no-no in the kashruth world and frowned upon by all major kashruth agencies. By their own admission, the only way to differentiate the products is through product codes.
“The fact that there is only a two per cent difference in price between kosher and non-kosher Ivanhoe products leads us to further believe that a legitimate labeling error could have occurred,” he added.
Badatz, which is a rival to COR’s dominant position in the kashruth certification business, suggested that there have been other circumstances in which COR’s clients mislabelled products, but did not have to face CFIA charges, including a case in which a Primo tomato sauce was distributed as pareve, even though the bottle did not indicate it was dairy.
Responding to the Badatz critique, Richard Rabkin, managing director of COR, said, “A company that mistakenly mislabels something as dairy when it isn’t is a far cry from someone who intentionally forges a kosher certificate for a non-kosher product, in order to pass that product off as kosher. This type of fraud is particularly egregious and that is why the CFIA has pursued this case.”
As to contacting other kashruth certification agencies, Rabkin stated, “Whether Creation may have had a kosher program in place for its baked goods was irrelevant to this case, as we were dealing with Creation forging kosher certificates for cheese that they were distributing that was manufactured by someone else.
“Many large plants produce both kosher and non-kosher products,” Rabkin continued. “The way that those products are differentiated is through a kosher symbol on the product. The fact that the non-kosher cheddar cheese in question did not have a kosher symbol is what raised the red flag in the first place.… COR has a mashgiach working full time at Gay Lea’s Ivanhoe facility and their kosher program is up to the very highest standards.”
Creation Food’s next court date was set for May 16, when preliminary legal matters will be discussed.