Coles chook fears unfounded

A LABELLING problem with kosher cooked chickens at Coles Elsternwick supermarket over the recent holiday break has sparked community fears about the kosher status of the poultry.

But while a bagging shortage saw some customers taking home roast chickens incorrectly described as “RSPCA approved”, Kosher Australia (KA) stressed that at no stage were non-kosher chickens sold as kosher.

KA general manager Yankel Wajsbort said the mix-up occurred when Coles met with higher demand for its new ready-cooked kosher chickens and ran out of the plain clear bags designated for that product line.

Counter staff began using bags not meant for the kosher chickens, with some bags claiming the chickens had RSPCA approval, which Wajsbort believes would not have applied to the kosher poultry.

But the substitute bags were labelled over with double heat-sealed “Kosher Australia” labels before they were handed to customers, said Wajsbort. And although he described the lapse as “far from ideal”, he reiterated that the chickens cooked in the kosher roasting area of Coles, and sourced from Solomons kosher butchers, were all kosher when sold to consumers.

“What kosher consumers are supposed to look for is a kosher seal. What’s printed on the bags is largely irrelevant,” he told The AJN this week.

On its website, KA posted an apology. “Both Coles and Kosher Australia apologise for any confusion that may have resulted, but assure consumers that there has been absolutely no compromise at any time of the kosher status of any appropriately sealed chickens bearing Kosher Australia label and seals.”

Wajsbort said that when reports ran in the mainstream media, some concerned rabbis contacted KA but they have been assured that no kashrut rules were violated. He said KA has rechecked the process from Solomons through to point of sale at Coles.

According to Wajsbort, Coles was expecting volumes of around 200-300 a week, based on its Sydney sales, and did not count on end-of-year summer holiday demand of more than 600 a week in Melbourne over December and January, which led to the shortage in plain bags. Wajsbort said the problem has been by rectified by Coles and would not happen again.

A Coles spokesperson told The AJN that “a limited number of kosher barbecued chickens were placed in incorrect chicken bags at the Elsternwick Coles store. The error occurred after the correct bags ran out and Coles regrets that this error occurred.”

PETER KOHN