Kosher Certification & Controlled Environment Agriculture

Kosher Certification Evolves With the Continuous  Technological Changes in Food Production

Since the OU’s first product certification of Heinz vegetarian baked beans in 1923, the OU’s processes for certification  evolved with food production technology.  A deep understanding of food production, technology and science have made it possible to meet our customers where they are. The Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) Industry, an industry sector at the leading edge of agricultural technology, has seen tremendous growth recently.  It  shows promise in the production of bug free food vegetables which are in high demand  by  kosher consumers.

As a background, most of us are familiar with pigs as not being Kosher as this is expressly forbidden for Kosher consumption in the Torah (bible).  However, it is stated many more times that insects are forbidden to be eaten as well.  As a result, the Kosher Consumer has to be very careful when preparing fresh produce because of  the potential presence of insects such as Thrips and Aphids.  This entails the consumer’s washing the produce at home, checking and, if clean (otherwise would have to restart the process) dry before consumption.  Needless to say, this can be an arduous task when preparing any meal.

The Unique Nature of the Kosher Vegetable Market

This is where the Kosher Vegetable market is unique, because kosher certified produce provides a critical convenience factor (often translating into higher premiums) for the consumer who is careful about not eating insects.  Interestingly enough, consumers who do not keep the dietary restrictions of Kosher, will nonetheless prefer kosher certified produce because of the fear/perceived disgust of eating insects. A well-known resort was recently sued for serving lettuce wraps that contained Aphids by non-kosher consumers.

With many farms now going indoors, to allow control of humidity, lighting, and nutrients for the plants, there is a greater potential of being insect free with the benefits of minimal to no pesticide use.  This is in addition to the freshness of the product as many of these farms are more local since they are not bound by outdoor constraints. Some companies can deliver their produce within 24 hours of harvest.  Due to this technology, the consumer can now have access to a greater variety of produce that can be insect free and never has to be washed, a process that reduces the product’s  quality.

This does not mean that indoor farms are automatically clean as it has been our experience that there are plenty of farms that have insect infestation.  Also, since many farms want to advertise that they are pesticide free, this will translate into an Integrated Pest Management that requires the release of beneficial insects to consume the more detrimental ones.

The kosher certification  of insect-prone vegetables is carefully supervised and navigated by the OU. Standard OU procedure will require an assessment of the facility.  In addition, substantial samples of vegetables or final product are checked for insects prior to granting certification. The dynamic of OU certification of vegetables is undoubtedly highly involved but the OU  has created a system of supervision to certify vegetables prone to insect infestation.

Through meeting many demands and developing an excellent working partnership with companies, the OU always strives to provide its certified companies with an unparalleled level of supervision.

Have any questions, comments, or want to explore Kosher Certification?  Please contact



Rabbi Daniel Sharratt
Rabbi Sharratt comes to the OU with experience working with many agencies across various industry sectors within the Food & Beverage Industry. Receiving a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Notre Dame with a concentration in Industrial Design and receiving Rabbinic Ordination from Mesivta Torah Vodaath, he has become a valuable asset to the OU. As a Rabbinic Coordinator, he ensures that the Rabbis in the field are able to conduct their inspections, review formulas, manufacturing processes, and acts as the Accounts Executive. He currently specializes in Beverages and Produce (with a keen interest in Controlled Environment Agriculture). Rabbi Sharratt at one point even owned and operated a Kosher Fresh Vegetable company, developing a unique perspective into the Kosher Vegetable market. He is actively involved with ASK OU, where he provides classes for consumers on how to wash and check vegetables at home for kosher consumption. In addition, he works with many companies in Latin America due to his ability to speak Spanish.