Adee Flour Mills has been ordered to pay the Kashruth Council of Canada (COR) $25,000 in damages, after it marketed its Easy Bake line of baking products as kosher, even though COR withdrew its kashrut certification.
In a decision handed down on Dec. 11, Lai-King Hum, deputy judge of Small Claims court of the Superior Court of Justice in Toronto, found that the sale of Adee’s cake and pancake mix products could result in “spiritual trauma” to “unsuspecting consumers who adhere to a kosher diet for religious reasons.”
Hum found that in continuing to market its products as kosher under COR supervision, the Mississauga, Ont.-based company breached its contract with COR, violated COR’s trademark and damaged COR’s goodwill “as a trusted certifier of kosher goods.”
Adee’s actions not only harmed the Kashruth Council, Hum wrote, but also the consumers of its purportedly kosher products.
“Since the products that are not authorized to be kosher certified are sold to unsuspecting consumers who adhere to a kosher diet for religious reasons, the failure to adhere to a kosher diet could foreseeably result in spiritual trauma. I find that the defendant Adee’s actions are highly reprehensible, departing markedly from the ordinary standards of decent behaviour, as there is foreseeable harm to the innocent consumer,” Hum wrote in her judgment.
Hum awarded $5,000 in punitive damages “to punish and discourage such conduct.” The other $20,000 was for breach of contract and misusing COR’s trademark.
Recounting the events that led to the decision, Hum noted that Adee did not respond to COR’s claim or participate in the hearing. One of COR’s claims was that Adee marketed products as pareve – containing neither milk nor meat products – when they were dairy.
Hum stated that Adee applied to COR for kosher certification on Oct. 7, 2015. It was granted on May 1, 2016.
A year later, COR sent a renewal notice, followed by phone calls and emails. Adee failed to respond and when Lucas Provenzano, Adee’s owner, did not pay the annual kashrut certification licensing fee, COR terminated Adee’s kosher certification on Oct. 11, 2017.
In April 2018, one of COR’s rabbis found an Easy Bake Devil’s Food Cake being sold with COR’s kosher trademark on it at a store in Kitchener, Ont. In addition, Adee continued to feature images of its Easy Bake line on its website, which included the COR logo. The images were still highlighted on the website on Jan. 7, nearly a month after the decision was delivered.
“According to Mr. Rabkin’s testimony, Adee products with the COR kosher certification symbol continue to be sold, as late as November 2018,” Hum wrote.
Hum turned down COR’s request that she issue an order requiring Adee to stop selling the products. A small claims court does not have the jurisdiction to issue such an order, the judge noted.
Commenting on the decision, Richard Rabkin, managing director of COR, stated that, “We at the Kashruth Council of Canada are gratified to see that the Canadian courts again are protecting the rights of kosher consumers and upholding the importance of the kosher laws.”
Rabkin said COR had not contacted retail outlets to ask them to remove the products.
“The only agency that has the authority to enforce recalls of products from store shelves is the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). We have been in touch with the CFIA about this issue (and) asked them to investigate,” he said.
The failure to adhere to a kosher diet could foreseeably result in spiritual trauma.
– Lai-King Hum
Rabkin explained that, “During the one year in which Adee was under COR certification, they only applied for certification for their various flour products. They didn’t apply for and were never authorized to put the COR symbol on the Easy Bake baking mixes.
“There were no issues during the year that Adee was under certification, but after their certification was terminated, they may have added the COR symbol to the Easy Bake products. Once we discovered these products being sold, we sent an alert to the community and tried to contact Adee on multiple occasions to rectify the situation. All of our communication went unanswered. This is why we felt that we had no recourse other than commencing legal action.”
Adee did not respond to The CJN’s requests for comment.