Keeping the government's nose out of anything with a religious whiff is one of America's founding principles. With this in mind on January 31st a federal district judge in Minnesota dismissed a lawsuit contending that Hebrew National, a big American meat-products brand, fraudulently labelled its hot dogs "100% kosher". Critics had claimed that the meat used did not meet kosher requirements. The judge, however, ruled that since kosher is a standard "intrinsically religious in nature", under the first amendment it was none of the court's business. Triangle K, the certifying body that gave the wieners the kosher seal of approval, and its Orthodox rabbis, would have to rebut the critics themselves. Unhappy customers could always shop elsewhere.
Few Western countries have laws explicitly regulating kosher or halal products—chiefly meat produced by the ritual slaughter of animals, subject to particular standards of health or hygiene. Governments prefer to rely on private companies and market forces to do the job. If people find out certified items are not as pure as they claim to be, they stop buying them. When governments do get involved it is usually under the auspices of consumer protection or food safety. They have been wary of wading in on specifically religious grounds. But with Muslim populations swelling throughout Europe and the business of religiously approved goods booming, the question of how to regulate such products is becoming more urgent.