Kosher consumers are used to paying higher prices for kosher products, and consumers who prefer products with a “mehadrin” supervision – one that demands more halachic stringencies in order for a product to qualify as kosher – usually end up paying even more.
Rabbinical supervision – especially mehadrin supervision – costs money, and the products themselves tend to be more expensive to produce, since special mehadrin-supervised raw materials and ingredients are required to maintain the “super-kosher” status.
So, when mehadrin consumers in supermarkets throughout Israel paid more for milk, yogurt, cheese, and other products, most didn't think twice – after all, mehadrin products are “supposed” to cost more. But as it turns out, they're not; and on Tuesday, the Agriculture Ministry sent a letter of clarification to Israel's large dairies and supermarket chains; dairy and milk products whose prices are set by the Ministry must not cost more than the maximum price allowed, regardless of their kashrut supervision.
As it happens, a number of milk products – including 1% and 3% milk marketed in plastic bags, Eshel and Gil sour creams and yogurts, 15% milkfat sour cream, butter, and several kinds of hard cheeses, are not only under rabbinical supervision, but government price supervision as well. And products whose prices are regulated must cost the same, regardless of the packaging, marketing, or level of “kosherness.”
In its letter, the Ministry reminded dairis and markets of the law, saying that “products with a mehadrin supervision are not to be considered 'special' for the purpose of charging higher prices,” as their ingredients and production are more or less the same as those of “regular” kosher products.
It should be noted that most of the mehadrin supervisions are operated by private organizations, some of them for-profit, while “regular” kosher supervision is provided by the Chief Rabbinate, although the Rabbinate also offers its own mehadrin supervision in some areas.
Agriculture Minister Orit Noked said that “a basic condition of fair play for consumers is to ensure transparency in pricing, and there is no reason for any consumer to pay more than the maximum legal amount. This is even more important when most of the consumers who are overpaying are not even aware that they are paying higher prices than they should, because they attribute it to the mehadrin supervision. We intend to put an end to this practice,” she said.