Industrial Bakeries

OU Kosher Staff

Hagaon, Reb Meir Shapira zt”l, upon establishing his famed Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin was asked to describe the derech of his shiurim. He responded that his goal was not to provide the talmidim with a finished “roll”, but rather to teach them how to bake the roll “to learn”.

Kosher consumers are quite familiar with the myriad of finished kosher certified baked products. This article will give the consumer a behind the scenes look at how industrial bakeries make these products and some of the relevant kashrus issues.

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Modern industrial baking facilities can be divided primarily into two general categories: Bakeries and Baking Supply Companies.

Bakeries

While industrial bakeries are similar in some ways to the smaller retail bakeries, there are particular issues that pertain to them – sometimes by virtue of their size alone. An industrial bakery may be as large as three million square feet, with its own loading dock to accommodate eighteen-wheel trucks for shipping and receiving. Another bakery may produce 30,000 bagels per hour and some use as many as 500 to 600 ingredients. An entire neighborhood bakery can fit into some of the industrial bakery ovens.

These differences impact on kashrus supervision in two ways. In some ways, it is easier to monitor the activities of industrial bakeries. Large bakeries are usually computerized, well organized, having ample room for distinctive dairy/pareve equipment. In this respect they are easier to supervise than a small cramped for space bakery. The flip side, of course, is that adequate supervision of large bakeries requires much training, a good measure of technical proficiency and time.

Baking Supply Companies

While not well known to the average kosher consumer, bakery supply companies represent the bulk of the bakery industry consists of baking supply companies. These companies manufacture specialized products which are then used as ingredients by bakeries. Nowadays, retail bakeries, especially in-store bakeries, no longer bake all or most of their goods from scratch, but rather, rely on the convenience of using premixed ingredients that are designed for their particular needs.

Baking supply companies produce three main categories of products: bake mixes, frozen doughs, and fillings.

Bake Mixes ……….These are mixes of ingredients such as flour, baking powder, oil, shortening, emulsifiers, enzymes and starch, that are then used by the bakeries to produce finished baked products. Mixes are produced for all of the various baked goods: cakes, pastries, cookies and breads. Even something as ”heimish” and traditional as challah is produced using industrial premixes.

Indeed, there was one particular bakery whose challahs were extremely well liked and popular, due to their distinctive taste and texture. Shoppers wondered about the secret recipe of its talented baker, and found out that his secret recipe was non other than an industrial challah mix!

Frozen Dough ……….These are fully prepared doughs that are frozen and ready to be baked. These doughs are used for a full range of baked items. An example is the common and quite popular frozen challah doughs used by consumers.

Incidentally, there is no need for hafrashat challah, separation of challah when baking these challas at home. The obligation of hafrashas challah comes at the time of lishah, kneading of the dough. If the company is not Jewish owned, there is no chiyuv challah. If it is Jewish-owned, a reliable kashrus certifying agency will have already taken care of hafrashas challah With respect to Pas Yisroel, regardless of whether the frozen dough comes from a Jewish owned company or not, the finished product will be by definition Pas Yisrael since a Jew is baking the dough. Pas Yisrael depends on the baking not the kneading of the dough.

Fillings ……….These are mainly used by bakeries for use in their own finished pastries, or pies. There are pareve fruit fillings as well as dairy cheese filling. One particular large bakery maintains a separate facility that exclusively produces apple fillings. Thousands of apples pass through this plant daily. A computer system views each apple and discerns their quality using eight different criteria. Only apples passing all eight are used; the rest are discarded.

Ingredients

The most fundamental aspect of supervision is to ensure that all ingredients meet the kashrus requirements of the kashrus agency. Baking companies use a vast number of ingredients, more than most other industry. In addition to the obvious and somewhat innocuous use of basic flours, the full range of ingredients requiring intense certification is used. For example: oils and shortening, egg products, emulsifiers, flavors and enzymes. Product formulas must be reviewed and monitored to make sure than no pareve products contain dairy ingredients (compatible dairy/pareve ingredients may not be used – see Hamodia, Kashrus Kaleidoscope article November 2005 ).

In case of bulk deliveries, bills of lading, certificates of analysis and lot letters signed by a Mashgiach matching the particular lot production may be required. The Mashgiach must know where all of the ingredients are stored. Often, besides the obvious warehouse of ingredients, there are additional locations such as freezers, small rooms, trailers in the parking lot and hidden high pallet racks within the warehouse.

Research and Development

Companies will often have research and development (R&D) labs, to test or experiment new products. These may be in separate facilities, designated rooms within the facility. Often, new products are tested on the same equipment as production, depending on the size and scope of the company. These ingredients must be monitored and supervised as well.

Non Food Ingredients

The following ingredients are not actual food ingredients, however, they must be monitored because they can contain non kosher derivatives:

Release Agents
Oven belts or pans are often greased so that breads or cakes are easily released and do not stick to the surface.

Paper Liners
Baking pans are usually lined with baking paper. There are two main types of paper: paper treated with silicon and paper treated with quillon. Silicon is a chemical that is not kosher sensitive. Quillon, however, may come from animal fat and therefore requires reliable certification. Bakers often use quillon because it is cheaper than silicone.

Roeh es HaNolad”, Foreseeing Future Developments
It is not enough for a Mashgiach to review all the ingredients. The Mashgiach must also be a Chacham and try to be the roeh es hanolad. If inventory of ingredients, especially sensitive ones, is running dangerously low there is a risk that the company may obtain a non approved replacement. The Mashgiach should ask and discuss the issue with the company. He must become familiar with all of the company personnel and understand their respective roles in running the facility.

Natural Ingredients
Consumers often have the misconception that natural ingredients are more likely to be kosher. In reality natural ingredients will often present very serious kashrus concerns. Here are a few interesting examples that pertain to the baking industry.

Mold Inhibitors in Bread
Bread manufacturers need an ingredient whose function is to prevent the formation of mold on the bread. These ingredients are called mold inhibitors. The most common and basic inhibitor is called calcium propionate which is a synthetic, white crystalline powder. Other chemicals used include sodium diacetate and potassium sorbate. They are innocuous and present no kosher concern.

However, if a company is marketing its products as “natural” these synthetic chemicals can not be used, and a “natural” mold inhibitor must be used instead. A very common natural mold inhibitor used is acetic acid (vinegar). It is most usable in a powdered form, and commonly, it is powdered in a dairy (whey) medium.

Fermented dairy solids, themselves, are also used as natural mold inhibitors. This presents an obvious kashrus problem. While kosher certified vinegar and whey can be obtained, the ingredient would be dairy and bread can not be dairy according to halacha (see Yoreh Deah 97). Bread therefore, containing this ingredient can not be certified as kosher.

This issue indeed is a major impediment in the certification of bread companies. There are companies that produce under certification, these vinegar inhibitors powdered in a pareve form using corn solids and wheat starch instead.

Another natural mold inhibitor, used primarily in dark bread is raisin juice concentrate. This too, presents a serious kashrus concern. It is now the consensus of the major kosher certification organizations that raisin juice concentrate, as currently produced, like grape juice, is stam yeinam (see Yoreh Deah 123) and thus can be accepted only under rigorous supervision and certification. In reality, there are very few sources of reliably certified raisin juice concentrate.

Natural Sweeteners
A company marketing a “natural” or “healthful” cookie or baked product will often want to use a pure fruit juice as its source of sugar, as its sweetener. Grape juice is one of the most effective sweeteners among the fruit juices. (Additionally, there is scientific research pointing to certain health benefits of grape juice and it therefore might be used in a natural or healthful product). Grape juice, again, presents the serious issue of stam yeinam. (For a full treatment of grape juice production and how it relates to general juice production, see Hamodia, Kashrus Kaleidoscope, Feb. 16, 2005, article by Rabbi Goodman)

Colors
There are times that companies will want to produce red or pink cookies. If the cookie is marketed as natural, the cookie may not contain chemical colors as ingredients. Such cookies will often use a natural, red, carmine food coloring.

Carmine, or carminic acid, is a natural organic dye made from the dried bodies of female insects called Coccus Cacti which live on cactus plants. It is one of the oldest known natural dyes. Most of the major kashrus agencies accept the psak halacha that carmine is not kosher. (See Minchas Yitzchak, vol.3, 96). (See Hamodia, Kashrus Kaleidoscope, March 2005, for a more detailed discussion about food coloring).

Dairy Bread

The issur involved here is to knead or to bake dairy bread dough. As such, bake mixes (pre-doughs) are not formally subject to this halacha. However, the major kashrus certification agencies have strongly adopted the position to prohibit the certification of dairy bread mixes as well. The reason is that although there may not be an issur to produce a dairy bread mix, the fact that it will be used to bake dairy bread, which is forbidden, would make certifying such a product a michshol, enabling incorrect behavior. This is a major challenge in certifying bake mix companies as they often wish to have dairy bread mixes certified.

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Baked goods are a staple of our physical sustenance. Indeed, the Talmud Yerushalmi, in Masseches Avodah Zara (cited by Shach, Yoreh Deah, 112, 7) refers to them as “chayei nefesh”, life sustaining. “Chayei Nefesh” may imply not only physical sustenance, but “nefesh”, spiritual well being as well. Thus, in addition to the technical aspects of certifying the kashrus of products, kashrus agencies carry the burden of the ruchnius well-being of Klal Yisroel, by preventing the possible timtum halev – “clogging of the heart” – of countless Jewish souls (see Yoreh Deah, 81, 7).

Thus, kashrus agencies bear a significant responsibility. Fulfilling this responsibility requires siyata dishmaya, in addition to the knowledge, skill and vigilance. May we merit to fulfill our duties properly.