Due to cuts in the New York State budget, all of the remaining inspectors at the state’s Kosher Law Enforcement Division were laid off as of the beginning of 2011. Although the NY State Dept. of Agriculture will still enforce the state’s Kosher Food Law (see N.Y. Agriculture & Markets Law §§ 201-a, 201-b, 201-c, 201-d), it will do so through food safety inspectors who have no prior specialized training in the Jewish laws of kashrus. Many are concerned that this development will lead to an increase in fraudulent misrepresentations of kosher certification. Click here for an article describing the reaction to these budget cuts, and here for a statement by the leading Orthodox Jewish organizations on the matter.
The question of whether states can and/or should enforce religious dietary standards is one that I would like to address in a future post. But by of way of background, New York passed its first law regulating kosher food in 1915, and since then, 21 other states have enacted similar laws. However, due to legal challenges, New York’s law, as well as several others, have been held unconstitutional. As a result, New York revised its kosher food law in 2004. For a recent law review article on state-enacted kosher food laws, see Mark Popovsky, The Constitutional Complexity of Kosher Food Laws, 44 Columbia Journal of Law and Social Problems 75 (2010).