Let us take a close look at the trip these baked goods took from the time the flour was milled until it was brought into the Jewish home. Is it as simple process as one is wont to assume? While many of us bake at home, the neighborhood bakery is a very different type of operation. As we will see, the neighborhood bakery is significantly more complex and has its unique kashrus issues.
In order to assist you, our customer, benefit from the OU kosher certification, the OU would like to present eight points to remember when purchasing the products we certify.
One of the great conveniences today enjoyed by the food consumer is bagged fresh salads. Washed, mixed, and nicely packaged, these products eliminate the annoyance of salad preparation and are just waiting to grace one’s table. However, nowadays even seemingly innocuous products must require kosher supervision. Bagged fresh salads are not immune to this phenomenon, as Rabbanim Hamachshirim and kosher agencies face the challenge of certifying these products as insect-free.
Approximately twenty-five years ago, the Chinese government decided to remake the country. China was up to that point a completely Stalinist-Maoist economy, wallowing in poverty, despite the fact that it is the world’s third largest country, blessed with various climates and abundant natural resources.
There is no doubt that anyone who has visited China in the last decade as a tourist or businessman has seen the unbelievable growth taking place in every phase of the Chinese economy, save for population. (As of this writing the population is holding at approximately 1.3 billion people.) Like any other industry in China, the food industry is hardly an exception. When numbers are spoken about in China they are not in terms of tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands, but rather in terms of millions and billions.
The process of certifying an item as OU kosher is based entirely on halacha – Jewish law. OU RC’s (Rabbinic Coordinators) and RFR’s (Rabbinic Field Representatives) are of course well versed in halacha and apply Jewish law in all aspects of the certification process. During the course of their work, however, when unique situations arise with no clear cut answer or precedent to halachic questions, rabbis in the field and their coordinators in New York have a mighty resource to call on – OU poskim, or experts at the highest levels in Jewish law. The following is a case study on how OU poskim make their decisions, and on the dynamic process which is involved in their deliberations. For this case study, we must travel all the way to Australia, home of a dairy company named Murray Goulburn.
A small sign hanging above the produce in a local supermarket reads, “Fruits and vegetables have been coated with food-grade vegetable, petroleum, beeswax, and/or lac-resin based wax or resin to maintain freshness… No fruits or vegetables have been coated with animal-based wax”. The sign is the result of efforts by citizens groups demanding disclosure of ingredients in coatings used on fresh produce. The produce industry, citing the impracticality of constantly changing signs and claiming that disclosure would compromise the confidentiality of coatings ingredients, resisted these demands. The FDA regulation that emerged in 1994 is the result of a compromise between the two groups. Although the sign does disclose some information, it only tells part of a much larger story.
THE ENZYME INDUSTRY and its component, the food grade enzyme industry, are areas that have grown rapidly over the last forty to fifty years. Enzymes are currently used to create all sorts of different properties in foods, throughout food manufacturing. Examples include the starch industry, production of cheese and other dairy products, bakery products, the egg industry, juice and wine production – and we could go on and on. Enzymes have been found to do all sorts of interesting things such as liquefy solids, sweeten starch syrups, curdle milk for cheese production, act as a clarifier in juice production, de-sugar egg whites to prevent browning during drying – and again the list goes on and on. It can truly be said that the use of food grade enzymes is now “mainstream,” as their usage is found in all sorts of production situations, large, medium and small.
While we shop, before purchasing a particular item we routinely ask ourselves, “Is it kosher?” The prudent kosher consumer will always check the label to confirm whether a kosher symbol appears on the label. However, due to the vast number of kosher agencies that operate throughout the world, sometimes checking labels for kosher symbols can resemble alphabet soup. Today, the number of kosher symbols internationally exceeds 700, and we often find ourselves in a sea of confusion. If a kosher symbol appears on a product label, we might be tempted to tell ourselves, “It must be fine, isn’t it? I am sure it’s all the same”.
It is well known that a few generations ago the Poskim discussed whether gelatin made from animal bones is kosher, and the general consensus in the United States was that it is not kosher. This article will focus on the more-recent developments regarding this ingredient.