Monday, March 06, 2006

The Facts About Kosher Supervision: Part 1


Knowing the basic laws of kosher and their application in the kosher kitchen sets the stage for the part of keeping kosher that is sometimes the most challenging: buying kosher food. Although there are many more kosher products available to us than there were to our mothers and grandmothers, there are also many more questions that need to be asked.

Hundreds of foods labeled “kosher” dot our supermarket shelves, but many factors that we cannot see complicate the process of guaranteeing a product as kosher. Over 2,800 additives not known fifty years ago are legally present in our foods, including colorings, flavorings, and preservatives. Huge factories manufacture enormous quantities of many types of food using processing techniques of which we know little or nothing.

Furthermore, these food factories often incorporate ingredients and agents which have been manufactured at still other plants and which often contain previously processed ingredients. As many ingredients used by local food-processing factories are imported from countries which do not have reliable supervising Rabbis sometimes find themselves on worldwide journeys when determining whether a single product is kosher.

The enormous quantities of food manufactured by these industrial methods poses another difficulty for the kosher consumer. Often, a seemingly kosher product is processed on equipment also used for non-kosher foods – making the previously kosher food non-kosher. Other requirements of kosher, which must be scrupulously upheld (such as meat and dairy separation) are often submerged in the busy, come-and-go routine of factory personnel who are limited in their knowledge of the kosher laws.

For these and other reasons, it is necessary to have reliable Rabbinical supervision and certification of kosher foods.


All processed food products must be carefully supervised throughout the many phases of production: cooking, baking, freezing, bottling, and canning. This supervision is performed by a party independent of the manufacturer, at the latter’s expense.

Kosher supervision is provided by either a national agency, a local board of kashrut, or an individual Orthodox Rabbi. Most large kashrut organizations have registered symbols or logos. This appears on the package and signifies their endorsement of the product. (This is quite different from a mere “K,” see below.) Sometimes only the name of a particular Rabbi or city kosher board appears.

The kosher certification is called a hechsher. When an organization or individual puts a hechsher on a product they attest to the fact that the contents and manufacturing meet their standards of kashrut. Not every hechsher is considered reliable.

The Letter “K”: A “K” appearing on a label does not necessarily mean that the product is kosher. It may signify kashrut certification, or it may have been put there by the manufacturer as his own claim that the product is kosher. To find out who or what is behind the “K” on a product, write to or call the manufacturer. Keep up with the newsletters published by the major certifying agencies listing the products under their supervision.


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