Darren Smith, one of the less-circumspect guest-bloggers that law professor Jonathan Turley inexplicably entrusts his blog to on weekends, wrote a post critical of Washington State for a law criminalizing the advertising of food as “Kosher-Style” when it is not, in fact, kosher.
Maybe he’s just a big fan of the offending restaurant chain he highlights, Five Guys, and is thinking with his stomach. Otherwise, he has no excuse for essentially giving a pass to intentional misrepresentation and fraudulent advertising as “no big deal.” Smith writes:
“Your author visited a Five Guys restaurant in Washington and did note that the “Kosher Style” hot dogs are cooked on the same grill as the beef, which would be a mixing of kosher and non-kosher foods in the making of the end product….The company has made an effort, on the company website at least, to note that these hot dogs are in the style of kosher and not actually kosher, but this might not be enough in Washington….There are numerous examples of products in the U.S. economy that use the word “Style” to declare that the food product is not actually as pure as might be expected of a product marketed without the word “Style”. Some examples might be “Artisan style breads” or “Honey style sauce” and do not necessarily break Washington’s, other states’ or Federal consumer protection laws. Yet Washington’s legislature decided that “style” was not enough with regard to differentiating kosher foods with non-kosher. It is either Pure or Not-Pure, and criminalized violations….It is certainly difficult to operate a business in numerous states having often greatly varied laws and administrative codes and when serving something as ordinary as a hot dog might possibly constitute a crime; it can make any business worry. Five Guys likely just wants to provide a menu its customers enjoy.”
Elsewhere in the article, Smith acknowledges that for certain religions eating non-kosher food can be “quite significant,” yet he pooh-poohs the effort of Washington legislators to stop establishments like Five Guys from using deceitful language to suggest that food is kosher when it isn’t. Disclaimers on websites and even menus come under the category of “fine print,” like “results not typical” in diet aid ads. Here’s a useful ethics tip: if you have to explain why your misleading description isn’t really misleading, a) it’s misleading, and b) you know it. All Five Guys has to do to take itself out of legal peril is to stop misleading its customers. Smith, however, thinks the problem is the law.
“Numerous examples of products in the U.S. economy that use the word “Style” to declare that the food product is not actually as pure as might be expected of a product marketed without the word ‘Style'” just means “everybody does it.” Smith’s entire argument is a series of rationalizations, attacking Washington State for having a quite reasonable and straight-forward consumer protection law that says “Don’t try to deceive your customers, especially when it may cause some to violate the sacred tenets of their faith”
Smith’s main beef (pun intended) may be based on anti-religion animus or at least stunning insensitivity to how serious observant Jews would regard being tricked into eating non-kosher hot dogs. “ This blog has discussed several examples of the criminalization of activities in the United States that would be considered by many to be either civil in nature or based upon manners or simple transgressions….[G]iven some of the heightened importance of issues relating to core values of particular cultures or religions, sometimes legislatures go about enacting laws having uniquely strong punishments that businesses or individuals might not be aware,” he writes. Ah! Then this is like Tennessee banning the teaching of evolution then! No, the law in question acknowledges that false and deceptive advertising that induces people to violate their religious beliefs is just a little bit more serious than Subway advertising a “foot long sub” that is really only eleven inches. When ethics fail, the law takes over.
To Smith, religion is trivial, and he can’t comprehend that the law is properly designed to protect those who don’t think their faith is trivial from establishments like Five Guys, and people like him.
ADDENDUM: This link is related, though not exactly on point; the comments too.
Source: Res Ipsa Loquitur.