ConAgra Foods Inc., the parent company of Hebrew National, is defending the brand's kosher reputation in response to a lawsuit seeking class-action status that claims its famed hot dogs and other meat products are not living up to their name.
The lawsuit, filed by 11 consumers in Minnesota state court in May, asserts that AER Services Inc., the company that provides meat-processing and inspection services for ConAgra, does not operate under the standards needed to classify Hebrew National products as kosher, Reuters reported.
The Hebrew National lawsuit contends ConAgra was able to charge higher prices for Hebrew National products because of its kosher labeling.
ConAgra said in a statement posted on the company's website that its Hebrew National products are kosher, and this lawsuit is without merit.
The Omaha, Neb., company added, Hebrew National's kosher status is certified by a well-recognized and authorized third-party. There is close rabbinical supervision of the food preparation process and packaging equipment. For more than 100 years, Hebrew National has followed strict dietary law, using only specific cuts of beef that meet the highest standards for quality, cleanliness, and safety with no by-products, artificial flavors or artificial colors.
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The statement was reiterated at the top of the Hebrew National website.
The lawsuit is based on claims from AER employees, who say procedures led to the products not being kosher.
The employees said they complained to AER and Triangle K, which certifies Hebrew National products as kosher, but higher-ups did not take action to correct the company's practices.
Instead, the persons making the complaints were terminated or otherwise threatened with adverse retaliation, such as job transfers, CNN reported.
Triangle K also denied the lawsuit's claims, calling the litigants' allegations outrageously false and defamatory and said the lawsuit was filed by anonymous disgruntled individuals against Triangle K's strict rabbinical supervision of Hebrew National products, according to CNN.
The lawsuit did not say what monetary damages the plaintiffs are seeking. The suit does seek an injunction against Hebrew National, putting the kosher label on its products.
A section of the Hebrew National website details how the company claims its products are different from other meats.
For more than 100 years, Hebrew National® has followed strict dietary law, using only specific cuts of beef that meet the highest standards for quality, cleanliness, and safety, so artificial flavors, colors, fillers, and byproducts simply don't make the cut, the company says in a section titled The Kosher Difference.
While Hebrew National is best known for its hot dogs, the brand also makes a variety of deli meats including bologna, salami, Polish sausage and knockwurst.