EXPOSED: Heter mechira produce or worse sold as “nochri” produce
During shmitah there is a dramatic increase in the use of “nochri” produce (produce grown by non-Jews) by the haredi population. This is provided by the Palestinians, who receive 2-3 times the regular non-shmitah price. Despite the increase in need, there is no subsequent increase in production which creates a strong motivation to provide produce from other sources in order to fulfill the demand and receive double/triple compensation. This week a produce wholesaler was caught doing just that. “Kvutzat Siam L’Peirot v’Yerakot” sells fruits and vegetables to restaurants in Jerusalem along with direct sales of produce in the Machane Yehuda shuk. The owner of this business, Kfir Issa, has a brother who sells Palestinian produce under the business name “Peirot v’Yerakot Mishor Adumim”. Kfir Issa was caught this week by the Pitzuach unit of Misrad HaChakalut purchasing large quantities of produce from Jewish farms under the heter mechira as well as other farms under no supervision whatsoever. On this produce he put a fake rabbanut stamp and stored it in cold storage in Mishor Adumim. From there it was sold to haredi centers as produce under “shmitah l’chumrah”.
Haredi consumers and mehadrin restaurants who thought they were purchasing kosher l’mehadrin produce discovered that under the best situation, they purchased heter mechira produce at 2-3 times the regular price. In the worst case scenario, they purchased product of unknown origin, under no government or rabbinic supervision at the same price.
The produce came into Israel with travel documents that were for previously purchased Israeli produce that were re-purposed.
Rabbi Rafi Yochai, in charge of kashrut fraud in the rabbanut stated: “This is a revolving door of whitewashing merchandise in large quantities, and the great majority of it we will probably never know about. Businesses such as these are likely to turn the matter of ‘yivol chul’ into a laughingstock. This expose shows how important it is to strengthen and to empower the rabbanut, and to put effective tools in their hands for dealing with and supervising kashrut on a national basis.”
Source: Mekor Rishon 24/10/2014