Response to Honeyfields

Dear Community Member

As some members of the community may be aware, Honeyfields have recently issued a statement questioning the integrity and pricing protocols of the BD Kosher department. Their statement is misleading, defamatory and a distortion of the truth and we are seeking legal advice to protect our rights.

The purpose of this letter is to set the record straight. When we place our BD stamp on a product we are promising our community, that every ingredient has been analysed by our food technologist, that their factory has been inspected by our trained inspectors and that every manufacturing process has been scrutinised by our team.

Honeyfields certification was removed because we could no longer guarantee the kashrut of their products because of their ongoing non-compliance with regards to non-submission of vital ingredient information and labelling requirements. This goes to the very heart of our certification process to validate every ingredient that has our hechsher and this has absolutely nothing to do with financial issues.

We have over 600 companies that follow our Kosher compliance model which is based on international best practice and – in the best interests of the South African Jewish community – we have a zero tolerance policy to non-compliance.

Honeyfields have marketed products on multiple occasions without first submitting their ingredients and kosher certificates to our department. This is a clear breach of our compliance requirements and international kosher standards. Furthermore, on no less than five occasions they incorrectly labelled their products dairy or parev due to them not following our compliance requirements of first getting authorisation to print their labels. We had to alert the community multiple times to these breaches over the past few years.

We do understand that labelling errors may occur from time to time in manufacturing operations due to honest mistakes. However, we have had numerous discussions with Honeyfields over the years and they were not prepared to cooperate with us and follow our Kosher compliance system.

After giving them close to a month to resolve the compliance breach, they ignored all our efforts to resolve the situation and we therefore had no choice but to issue an alert that we can no longer take responsibility for the Kosher certification status of their products due to non-compliance and non-cooperation. The BD Kosher department certifies more than 50 000 ingredients from some 600 companies, and the only way we can fulfil this mandate to guarantee that products are kosher is when we have the full cooperation of all the companies – which regrettably has not been the case with Honeyfields, despite ongoing efforts to resolve our concerns.

The pricing letter that Honeyfields has put out regarding their kosher fees is misleading as we had given them a substantial discount due to their financial pressures. Their total fees payable for 2020 was R17 875 and we also offered them payment terms over four years to assist them with this obligation, given the difficult economic landscape which have faced through COVID-19. The reality is that Honeyfields had more than 88 products each with multiple ingredients requiring kosher certification, and their 2020 adjusted fees do not even cover the substantial specialist resources including a food technologist, trained inspectors and our admin and data team and the time and effort that goes into the BD Kosher department certifying each and every product of Honeyfields.

We go out of our way to ensure that companies can become Kosher certified not withstanding their financial position and we have never removed any certification due to lack of funds. Over the incredibly difficult period of lockdown we gave many companies payment holidays or substantial discounts to assist them. Furthermore, we have waived fees almost all the fees to kosher caterers and are fully subsidising the costs of their certification.

At any point that Honeyfields is prepared to comply and cooperate with our kashrut requirements, we would be willing to re-certify them.

Kind Regards

Rabbi Dovi Goldstein
MD Kosher