Business Halacha: Refund for Faulty Kashrus?


kashrusQuestion: I bought food from a store and, after eating from it, a kashrus alert was sent out declaring it non-kosher. Am I entitled to any reimbursement?

Answer: This depends on the reason for the kashrus alert. If the food was declared non-kosher because of a Biblical prohibition – e.g. certain tereifahs, improper slaughtering, meat and milk cooked together – then the seller must refund the full amount of the money even if the food was already eaten. If the prohibition was Rabbinic – e.g., wine touched by a non-Jew, chicken and milk, or terumos and ma’asros nowadays – the buyer can return what remains of the food, but if he already ate it the seller does not have to reimburse him. (Choshen Mishpat 234:3-4)

[The reason for this distinction is twofold: First, on account of the greater severity of a Biblical prohibition we penalize the seller for having caused the buyer to sin. Second, even though the buyer ate the food accidentally, we don’t consider him as having benefitted at all from the food if it entailed a Biblical prohibition, but rather assume he was repulsed by the thought.(SM”A 234:4)]

Later authorities rule that even if the prohibition was rabbinic, if the buyer did not pay yet, he needs to pay only the cheaper price of non-kosher food. (Pischei Teshuva 234:1) Furthermore, if the item is declared assur b’hanaah (forbidden to benefit from) – e.g., chametz that was possessed by a Jew over Pesach – the sale is null and void even though the prohibition is rabbinic, and the seller must return the money. (C.M. 234:4)

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Authored by Rabbi Meir Orlian

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  1. There is a distibuter of Pre-Checked produce in the Metropiltan NY area. Some of his packaged produce is checked by a mashgiach (10 bags out of a trailer load?). If the mashgiach doesn’t approve to to infestation, the distributor has green labels for a diffent certifier. The consumer doesn’t realize that it’s infested & the distributor is not to be trusted even for the ones with the yellow label.