“I have a hunch they will see the light, that this is an important part of their business and they’ll reconsider,” Menachim Lubinsky, founder of Kosher Today, said regarding a recent statement by Bimbo Bakeries USA.
The statement said that the company, the largest producer of bread and bakery products in the United States, would be removing the kosher certification from most of its products, including Arnold, Sarah Lee and Strohmann’s. Two brands, Entenmann’s and Thomas, famous for their doughnuts and English muffins respectively, would remain kosher, as would a few brands of rye bread.
The company wanted to remove the kosher certification to “enable more efficient operations,” according to the original statement released on Dec. 11. Bimbo said that the change would allow them to produce their bread on the same lines as products containing dairy. According to the laws of kashrut, for a bread to be parve — and thus able to be served as part of either a meat or dairy meal — it should be produced on its own production line.
Kosher observant Jews may have a difficult time buying bread should the decision go into effect. Bimbo is currently the largest distributor of kosher bread and baked goods across the country; in areas where there isn’t a large Jewish population, their products might be the only bread that kosher-keeping Jews can rely on.
Montgomery County, however, won’t be an area that is that heavily affected. H&S Bakery in Baltimore produces many kosher goods for brands like Schmidt, and there are plenty of kosher bakeries in the area, including Breadsmith of Potomac, Sunflower Bakery and Goldberg’s Bagels.
Moti’s Market, a kosher grocery store in Rockville, won’t be affected by the change at all. It does not carry any Bimbo products, owner Gideon Sassoon said, except for Thanksgiving turkey stuffing.
“Most of our customers are looking for [bread] products that are parve [which we do]. I assume most of [Bimbo’s] stuff is dairy,” he said.
The market’s bread is either made in house or purchased from one of the kosher bakeries in the area.
However, Shalom Kosher, the area’s other kosher market in Silver Spring, does carry Bimbo brand bread products. “[This change] will definitely affect my business,” Larry Deckelbaum, owner of Shalom Kosher, said. At the time of the call, he did not know how he was going to deal with the issue.
Customers had a range of reactions upon finding out that the news.
Charlotte Baer and her family adore Bimbo products and buy them regularly from the market. “We support Bimbo,” she said, “We hope that the change doesn’t happen.” She did not say what products her family will switch to if the change does take place.
Other customers were less upset.
“We don’t buy any of their products,” Arnie Schwartz said, “I don’t think it would affect me. [But] I can see how it would affect other people.” He also noted that he no longer really eats bread products, due to his age and likened the change to finding out other products he doesn’t eat would cease production. It’s not really an issue for him.
Avi Furman was concerned at first when he found out which products Bimbo carries, but was relieved when he found out that his favorite product from them would not be affected. “As long as I have Thomas [English Muffins],” he said, “I’m good.” Otherwise, he said, he buys locally-made bread products in the store.
As for right now, most of the Bimbo products that are certified kosher will remain so. Bimbo and the Orthodox Union, which certifies most of Bimbo’s products, met on Dec. 13 to discuss solutions to the problem during which they “identified several possible solutions,” according the company. The company hopes to finalize a plan in January.
Lubinsky is certain that the company will not follow through with its original plan. “It’s worth it for them to maintain kosher certification on all the brands they represent,” he said.