Thursday, March 09, 2006

Kosher Supervision: Part 4

B"H

FOOD ESTABLISHMENTS REQUIRING SUPERVISION

Food, wherever it is eaten, has an affect on the neshamah (soul). Eating only kosher food when visiting, dining out, vacationing or traveling is, of course, just as important as eating kosher at home. Therefore, we must be very careful to patronize only those food establishments which conform to our expectations and standards of kosher. Acquaintances and friends may not always understand our unwillingness to eat in all restaurants, but most people will respect us for upholding our principles.

Restaurants, Caterers And Hotels
When food is prepared in large quantities with many different ingredients, and a number of people are working in the kitchen, the task of maintaining high standards of kashrut is greatly enlarged. Add to this the pressure of commercial considerations, and the need for hashgachah (kosher supervision) becomes apparent. A mashgiach (kosher overseer) is essential and may be required to be on the premises at all times.

The mashgiach must be present to check all products brought into the establishment, and must also be present during the preparation of the food. Before you dine out, find out who is responsible for the kosher supervision of the premises. Trustworthy kosher establishments are always willing to answer your questions about the kosher certification of their restaurant or service.

The proprietor should be a Shabbat observer, for Shabbat observance is a criterion often used to determine a person’s commitment to the Torah and its laws. If the establishment is a hotel, or a restaurant kept open for the purpose of serving holiday meals, the reservations and payment must be made before the Shabbat or holiday begins.

Meat Restaurants: Like all commercial food manufacturers, meat restaurants require proper supervision. A reliable kosher overseer is a necessity. All laws pertaining to kosher meat (shechitah (ritual slaughtering), permissible cuts, salting, treibering) and separation from dairy must be strictly observed.

In addition, incoming food orders must be strictly supervised in order to prevent the use of foods which are non-kosher or dairy. Further, personnel involved in handling the food require careful supervision because they may not be fully aware of the special requirements of kosher meat. Most meat restaurants also serve fish which, besides having its own special kosher requirements, may not be mixed with meat. A reliable kosher overseer is a necessity.

Vegetarian and Dairy restaurants: Do not assume that a restaurant is kosher simply because it does not serve meat. In addition to the requirements for a kosher overseer and for Shabbat and Yom Tov observance, any of the following may cause problems in a vegetarian or dairy restaurant:

*All fish must be kosher; otherwise the pots, dishes, dishwashers, etc. become non-kosher, and foods prepared in such utensils may not be eaten.

*All pareve and dairy ingredients must also be kosher in order to maintain the kosher status of utensils and all other foods. All oil or shortening used must be made of pure vegetable products and be Rabbinically approved.

*Certain vegetables and grains must be carefully washed and checked for insects and worms. Eggs must be inspected for blood spots.

*Food which is usually not eaten raw, and which was prepared for consumption entirely by a non-Jew, is not permitted even if cooked in kosher utensils. Such food is called bishul akum. If a Jew assists, such as by lighting the flame, the food is not bishul akum and may be eaten.

Pre-Packaged Kosher Meals
Airlines: Most airlines will readily arrange, upon request, a pre-packaged kosher meal at no extra cost. When making your reservation, be sure the kosher meal has a reliable kosher certification. The food must be brought to you complete with its wrappers still sealed. It may not be warmed in the airplane’s oven once the original wrapper is removed, and may not be handled with non-kosher utensils.

Experienced kosher travelers find it wise to call the airline the day before the flight to confirm their request for a kosher meal. Even with these precautions, it is advisable to pack some carry-on snack food just in case.

Hospitals: Most hospitals have available, or are willing to obtain, pre-packaged kosher meals like the ones served by airlines. Again, the food must be warmed in its original wrapper and be brought to you still sealed. The nursing staff will often be quite helpful and may allow you to keep some food in the refrigerator. This food should be clearly marked and sealed.

Some hospitals even have kosher kitchens. It is important to ensure that there is kosher supervision. Often a kosher overseer is available on the premises and will be ready to answer your questions.

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