New Court Ruling on Kosher Laws One More Reason for USDA to Drop Organic Food Proposal

New Court Ruling on Kosher Laws One More Reason for USDA to Drop Organic Food Proposal

August 14, 2000

Washington, DC, August 14, 2000 – While the U.S. Department of Agriculture digests the mass of public comments on its proposed organic food labeling rules, a new federal court decision provides yet another indication of why the agency should abandon its attempt to control this subject.  <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />


The court ruling, issued on July 28th, overturned New York State's kosher slaughtering laws as an unconstitutionally excessive involvement of government in religion.  The court found that despite the lack of “uniform consensus regarding what constitutes kosher,” New York had effectively defined the term in accordance with orthodox Hebrew requirements.


“The debate over what is and is not organic is incredibly similar to doctrinal debates over kosher food requirements.  Much of the organic food controversy has less to do with science than with ideology,” stated Competitive Enterprise Institute General Counsel Sam Kazman. “At the same time, for both organic and kosher foods, private certification agencies have served the public far better than government agencies.  This is all the more reason for USDA to abandon its attempt to impose an across-the-board organic standard.”


In comments filed this past June (available at, CEI urged USDA to avoid imposing a single across-the-board standard for organic foods.  Such a standard would deny consumers the flexibility to choose between various organic production methods, and its restrictions on labeling by competing certifiers would raise major First Amendment problems.



CEI, a non-profit, non-partisan public policy group founded in 1984, is dedicated to the principles of free enterprise and limited government. For more information, please contact Emily McGee, director of media relations, at 202-331-1010, ext. 209.