A great contemporary kosher challenge is ensuring that vegetables are clean of insect infestation. Insects are forbidden according to Torah law and there is a rabbinic requirement to check those vegetables that are commonly found to house insects. Although the FDA has thresholds for insects in produce, kosher requirements are far more rigorous. For example, the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act 402 (a) (3) allows up to 60 insects per 100 grams of broccoli and 50 insects per 100 grams of spinach! According to kosher law, consuming even a single insect is strictly forbidden. It’s not uncommon for a product to fall within the FDA tolerance and outside of meeting kosher law requirements and this poses a serious challenge for the kosher community. This also requires companies to demonstrate ingenuity to meet kosher law requirements on a commercial level. One OU certified company that has shown that creativity is Kosher Gardens.
Kosher Gardens has been producing high quality kosher certified vegetables for many years. All products are greenhouse grown, which greatly minimizes the risk for bacteria and other safety concerns. A team of experts ensures Kosher Gardens products conform to the highest quality, as well as FDA, HAACP, GMP, and OU guidelines. Although Kosher Garden is not certified organic, they use fewer pesticides than their traditionally grown counterparts.
Kosher Gardens has built their own specialty greenhouses in Mexico. The growing ranches are exclusively owned by the company, which allows them to control the product from seed to bag within their own operation. Specialized growing programs have been introduced, which includes checking produce extensively for infestation by a mashgiach. The innovative use of greenhouses allows the company to create a controlled environment and maintain constant oversight in the battle against insects. Outside product is not used and all products are checked regularly by a mashgiach throughout the entire growing process to monitor the harvest.
Once the harvest is initially approved, it is shipped to Allentown, PA for further processing. Kosher Gardens owns a PA facility that washes and packs produce into retail or foodservice size packaging. This state-of-the-art facility utilizes highly sophisticated machinery to further test and triple wash each product. Samples are taken prior and post washing by a team of mashgichim, who continue the checking process to ensure that all products are free of any possible infestation. The mashgichim check the samples in a dedicated area; a modern laboratory that allows them to comfortably inspect vegetables.
Ensuring that vegetables are insect-free is a daunting task. Constantly changing environmental factors directly impact the presence of insects in produce. This has posed a great challenge for growers and kosher certifying agencies. Nevertheless, innovation and creativity have made kosher, bug free vegetables a reality.
Kosher Gardens is certified kosher by the OU.
by Rabbi David Bistricer