* Judge says he does not have jurisdiction
* Lawsuit filed by 11 consumers in May 2012
NEW YORK Jan 31 ConAgra Foods Inc has
won the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by consumers claiming the
company's Hebrew National hot dogs and other products are not
U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank in St. Paul federal court
ruled on Thursday that he does not have jurisdiction over a
dispute that he described as "intrinsically religious in
Eleven consumers filed the lawsuit last May, asserting that
ConAgra misled customers into believing that its products were
kosher according to "the most stringent" Orthodox Jewish
standards by including a symbol on its packaging.
The lawsuit alleged that ConAgra's contractors, meat
processor AER Services Inc and kosher supervisor Triangle K,
failed to follow proper religious procedures. The plaintiffs
sought unspecified damages and an injunction against the labels
as well as class-action status for consumers who have bought
Hebrew National products since 2008.
But Frank said he was constrained by clear Supreme Court
precedent barring civil judges from resolving faith-based
"Any judicial inquiry as to whether defendant misrepresented
that its Hebrew National products are "100% kosher" (when
Triangle K, an undisputedly religious entity, certified them as
such) would necessarily intrude upon rabbinical religious
autonomy," Frank wrote.
He noted that ConAgra, the only named defendant in the
lawsuit, is a secular entity, while the plaintiffs chose to
leave Triangle K and AER out of the lawsuit.
"It is Triangle K and its Orthodox rabbis who make such
determinations," Frank said. "Naturally, therefore, this court
cannot determine whether defendant's Hebrew National products
are in fact kosher without delving into questions of religious
Hart Robinovitch, the plaintiffs' lawyer, did not
immediately return a call for comment on Thursday evening.
In a statement, ConAgra spokeswoman Becky Niiya said the
company has "always stood by our kosher distinction and status."
"We know how important kosher quality is to our consumers,
and we look forward to continuing to make Hebrew National 100%
pure kosher beef franks and other kosher offerings," she said.
The case is Wallace et al v. ConAgra Foods Inc, U.S.
District Court, District of Minnesota, No. 12-01354.