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Vegetarians in Paradise
Vegetarianism in the News


October 1, 2005 -- Vegparadise News Bureau


Editors' Note: For background information on this story see our two previous reports at http://www.vegparadise.com/news53.html and http://www.vegparadise.com/news55.html


Emes Kosher Products Goes Belly Up;
VIP Asks for Illinois Attorney General Investigation

Emes Kosher Products is no longer in business. In a letter to distributors dated August 23, 2005, Don Abramson, Chief Financial Officer, detailed that shipping costs led to the company's insolvency. The letter to distributors came days after the Illinois Office of the Attorney General sent the company a copy of the letter VIP mailed to the Attorney General in June.

The letter from Abramson to the distributors had no return address or phone number. VIP obtained a copy of the Emes letter to share with our readers.


Emes Kosher Products


Vegetarians have relied on Emes Kosher Jel for years as a substitute for gelatin derived from animal sources. It performed like gelatin in all kinds of vegetarian recipes, especially desserts. What purchasers did not realize was that it acted like real gelatin because it was real gelatin.

Earlier this year Vegetarians in Paradise became aware of rumors that the Jel was not a vegetarian product. When we began our investigation in May, we learned of two instances where laboratory tests revealed the product contained over 50% animal protein.

When we published the article http://www.vegparadise.com/news53.html, it was greeted with skepticism and derision. How dare we challenge a product that had been considered a vegan item for years! This was a company that had been in business for a half century.

After we published our August story http://www.vegparadise.com/news55.html, there was no doubt: the Kosher Jel was not vegetarian. Three laboratory tests revealed over 50% animal protein in this so-called imitation gelatin. VIP paid for one of those tests to counter Emes' claims that the previous two were part of a Seventh-day Adventist plot against the company. Our August story details these charges.

Although the company was barraged with phone calls, Vice President Ted` Loomos continued to assure callers that the product contained no animal ingredients and was vegan.

Meanwhile, we decided to contact the Illinois Attorney General's Office to file a consumer complaint. We sent the following letter:


June 25, 2005

Ms. Lisa Madigan, Attorney General
State of Illinois
500 South Second Street Springfield, IL 62706

Dear Ms. Madigan:

Vegetarians across the United States are incensed because for years they have been duped by Emes Kosher Products. This Illinois-based company has stated on its packages of Emes Kosher-Jel that the product "contains no meat, no dairy products."

A few vegetarians have been suspicious of this product because it mimics regular gelatin that is made from animal collagen. They have been suspicious enough to submit packages to laboratories for analysis.

The laboratory results were shocking. Two laboratories found that the samples contained over 50% collagen indicating the product did indeed possess animal ingredients. We are including information from the two laboratories to support this statement.

The ingredient list on the package states, "Contains carageenan, locust bean gum, and malto-dextrin." A product containing these three items would not test positive for collagen. Could it be the company has neglected to list any additional ingredients?

We have spoken on the phone with Mr. Ted Loomos, vice-president of the company, who vehemently denied that the product contained animal ingredients. The company has not made available a laboratory report testing for collagen in their Kosher-Jel.

We hope your office will have an opportunity to investigate this matter.

Sincerely,
Zel and Reuben Allen


The response to our letter appeared on a postcard and was quite disheartening. The form response, typical for agencies dealing with consumer complaints, read:


Dear Consumer,

Thank you for contacting the Office of the Attorney General regarding your consumer complaint. We have received your complaint and will be reviewing it over the next few weeks to determine what assistance we may provide. Once we have reviewed the complaint and made a determination, we will send you written notice of our decision. Please know that your concerns are important to us. We thank you in advance for your patience.

Very truly yours,

Lisa Madigan
Illinois Attorney General


Not sure the Attorney General's Office would take any action, VIP decided to contact officials in St. Charles, Illinois, to learn more about the company. We had been suspicious all along because no one seemed to know the physical address of the operation. The only address was the St. Charles post office box.

The company's phone was an answering machine. Anyone calling would receive a return call from Emes Vice President Ted Loomos.

Emes never had a website. In fact, no one at the company seemed to be online to read our stories about them. When we wrote to give them an opportunity to respond to our charges that the product contained animal ingredients, they could have seen our story on the internet, but instead, insisted on signed copies of the pages.

One of our friends said we should have not complied with their request because it was a ploy to use in suing us. That same friend advised us to eliminate the following conclusion to our August story:

Emes Kosher Products is holding the smoking gun for misrepresenting its products and betraying the trust of its customers. The company can no longer delude the vegetarian community. When vegetarians stop buying Kosher-Jel, Emes will rightfully become a dark memory in history.

He felt our story suggested we were trying to put the company out of business, and the company could take legal action against us. He also advised us to consult an attorney.

Our contacts with city officials in St. Charles and Kane County, Illinois revealed no surprises. No one in St. Charles had ever heard of the company. Contacting Kane County, we learned the business was not registered there.

We Googled Ted Loomos to find that he currently resides in St. Charles, Illinois. How convenient to maintain a post office box! We began to wonder if he was conducting the business out of his home. We envisioned a scenario that had Mr. Loomos buying gelatin, adding maltodextrin, carageenan, and locust bean gum, and packaging it as Emes Kosher Jel. Unfortunately, we had no evidence and could not afford the fees necessary to commission a complete ingredient analysis.

Before we left for vacation at the end of August we received an email from the Great Lakes Gelatin Company. Someone at the company had read our story.


Subject: article
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2005 14:37:46 -0500
From: Sales at Great Lakes Gelatin Company
To: vegparadise@vegparadise.com

We are very glad to see that you have done some research on the Emes product. We have received many calls at our company over the years asking about a vegetarian gelatin. We have spent countless time explaining to people that there is no such thing. They are thickeners, of course, that can be derived from vegetable sources but not gelatin.

Some years ago I called Emes directly as we were getting so many confused customers. I discussed with him the misleading labeling of calling it vegetable gelatin. I see now that the article says the product has a Jel nomer on the label instead of the word gelatin. We are constantly trying to fight myths about what gelatin is and is not. Informed customers are the happiest customers.

We are happy to supply you with names of additional independent labs if more tests are needed to prove content. We are also to help answer any additional questions you may have about gelatin or its specifications. Much information can be found at our website.

Sincerely,
J. Hammel --


Great Lakes Gelatin Co.
Phone: 847-223-8141
Fax: 847-223-8144
email: sales@greatlakesgelatin.com
web: http://www.GreatLakesGelatin.com


When we returned from our vacation in mid-September, there were two new developments. Emes's phone was disconnected, and the Office of the Attorney General responded to our original letter.


Emes Kosher Products


We felt the letter was ludicrous, just another form response. We were not interested in mediating with Emes and were not in a legal dispute with the company. We originally wrote to the Office of the Attorney General to persuade them investigate a company conducting its business fraudulently. We responded with the following letter:


September 16, 2005

Ms. Clara Cruz, Citizen's Advocate
Consumer Protection Division
100 West Randolph Street
Chicago, Illinois 60601

Re: Emes Kosher File No: 2005-CONSC-00129394

Dear Ms. Cruz:

We realize that your office is quite busy responding to complaints about businesses in your state. The letter we received from you appears to be a form response to handle such complaints and is inappropriate for this circumstance.

A month has passed and we have received no communication from Emes Kosher Products answering your letter. Meanwhile, the company's phone has been disconnected, and they are not responding to any written communications.

Frankly we were shocked by your letter that states, "The business may contact you about a possible settlement after they receive our letter. We encourage you to consider any reasonable offer. If the business responds directly to our office, a copy of their response will be mailed to you. This is an informal mediation process. We are unable to represent private citizens in legal disputes."

We are not seeking mediation. We are seeking justice. We were hoping your organization would investigate whether this company is operating legally in the State of Illinois.

This is not a local matter. Emes is sending its products across the United States. The packages are improperly labeled and do not indicate all of the ingredients. We have learned that city officials in St. Charles are unaware of the company's existence. The company is not even registered as a business in Kane County.

This is not a matter of one citizen's complaint against a company. Vegetarians across the country and around the world are incensed by the deception of this company's claims that Emes Kosher Jel contains no animal ingredients. Laboratory tests have revealed the product has more that 50% animal protein. The company has operated for years in the State of Illinois without following normal business protocol.

Frankly, we are quite disappointed by your response. When we wrote to your office in June, we hoped that someone would investigate the matter. We wrote as private citizens, but now we are communicating as publishers of Vegetarians in Paradise, an online vegetarian magazine with over 80,000 visitors monthly. Our most recent story about Emes Kosher Products can be accessed at http://www.vegparadise.com/news55.html.

We look forward to your response. Our readers will too.

Sincerely,

Zel and Reuben Allen


Although we felt the letter to us from the Office of the Attorney General on August 17 was ridiculous, it proved to be the catalyst for Emes to close their illegal operation. The Attorney General was aware of their existence. They were out in the open instead of being a shadowy operation. A few days later they were out of business.

Their final letter to distributors had no return address or phone number and none of the earmarks of correspondence from a legitimate company going out of business. Their claim of insolvency due to shipping cost increases retroactive to January 1 is questionable. The irony of this whole affair is that "emes" means truth. We would expect that any company with that word in their name would demonstrate that virtue.

Although Emes Kosher Products is out of business, we feel the owners of the company should not be allowed to slink away. They should be punished for their illegal and deceptive practices. Vegetarians in Paradise is requesting that our readers write to the Illinois Office of the Attorney General to encourage them to investigate Mr. Joe Shapera, company president, Mr. Ted Loomos, vice-president, Mr. Don Abramson, chief financial officer, and the entire Emes Kosher Products Company. Any letters should be addressed to:

Ms. Clara Cruz, Citizen's Advocate
Consumer Protection Division
100 West Randolph Street
Chicago, Illinois 60601

All letters must have the following information:
Emes Kosher Products
File No: 2005-CONSC-00129394

Letters may include information from our letter or may copy our form letter below.

Your address
Date

Ms. Clara Cruz, Citizen's Advocate
Consumer Protection Division
100 West Randolph Street
Chicago, Illinois 60601

Re: Emes Kosher Products
File No: 2005-CONSC-00129394

Dear Ms. Cruz:

We would like your office to investigate Emes Kosher Products for fraudulently marketing their Kosher Jel, deceiving the public about the ingredients, and operating illegally.

As vegetarians we are outraged that Emes has been allowed to market a product that is improperly labeled, "Contains no meat or dairy products." These company claims have been proved false by independent laboratory tests. The owner and officers of the company should be made to answer for their deceit and illegal actions.

Sincerely,

We also ask each of our readers to email a copy of the letter to vegparadise@vegparadise.com so we can determine the effectiveness of our Emes investigation effort.

Vegetarians in Paradise considered initiating a class action lawsuit against Emes Kosher Products, but we don't have the funds to hire an attorney and proceed with the case. Therefore, we must rely on government agencies to handle the matter. Hopefully, we can gain their attention. A batch of letters from our readers may be the first step in this process.

Perhaps, our action will discourage other companies from mislabeling and misrepresenting their products to the public.


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