Tanks for the Memories: OU and transport Companies Work Together to Make Sure that Kosher Products

A few weeks ago I was attending a wedding reception, sitting at a round table with a number of other guests. An older gentleman, an interested kosher consumer but not, himself, involved in the kosher industry, turned to me. He asked me what I do, and I told him I work at the OU.

“Tell me what it is you do at the OU,” he said. I told him that, among some other things, I am involved in making sure that the transport of kosher commodities from one site to the next is on vehicles that are dedicated to kosher products. He seemed uncertain about what I meant.

“For example,” I said, “when a salad dressing maker purchases distilled vinegar, how does the vinegar get from the vinegar producer to the salad dressing site? We make sure that the tanker trailers that haul the vinegar are also dedicated to kosher products.”

“I see,” the fellow said. “It never even occurred to me that you had to get involved in such things.”

“Well,” I replied, “it’s like an extension of what we supervise within a manufacturing plant. You expect us to be careful that the tanks and processing equipment within a facility are used only for kosher, right?”

”Of course,” he said.

“Well, the same is true for the ‘tanks,’ which we call tanker trailers, which bring the commodity from one facility to the next. Those are the big steel cylinders that you see speeding down the interstate. They look the same as the trucks that contain gasoline, but these trailers may contain fruit juice, vegetable oils, milk, chocolate, or other liquid products.”

“Hmm. That’s remarkable. But how do you make sure that those trucks are kosher?”

“That’s a really good question.” I said. “It’s different from supervising a manufacturing facility, because these trailers are never in one spot. So we have mashgichim who go to their main offices, where they keep logs of the trailers. Some of these companies have a handful of trailers, some of them over a hundred and fifty. In either case, the mashgiach has to audit the activity of these trailers.”

“Did you hear that?” the man turned to his teenage son, who had been absorbed in garlic bread and coleslaw. “The OU makes sure that the trucks that bring vinegar to a salad dressing maker are also kosher. Come to think of it, it could be the vinegar that’s in your coleslaw,” he guffawed “was once in an OU certified truck.”

It’s definitely possible. In the last 15 years or so, the OU has observed the growth of a transportation infrastructure for the kosher industry. Slowly but surely more trailers that are dedicated to kosher transport are becoming available, enabling kosher certified manufacturers to buy or send their liquid bulk goods on trailers that maintain the kosher status of their commodity.

Kosher trailers are necessary because non-kosher liquids, even when cold, can become absorbed in the walls of a vessel after 24 hours of service. Tallow and lard, animal-derived fatty acids and glycerin, non-kosher wine, wine vinegar or grape juice render a trailer non-kosher, while milk and dairy products can render a trailer dairy, so that it cannot be used for pareve commodities. Because interstate trade is so common, trailers often carry a commodity for at least that amount of time. When non-kosher commodities, such as glycerin, tallow and lard, are hot, they become absorbed into the wall of their container immediately.

Just like a standard storage tank or bottling equipment can be kosherized (converted from non-kosher to kosher), so too a trailer can be kosherized. Trailer wash facilities charge an additional fee for performing such a wash. Although we are trying to establish greater resources around the country to perform kosherization washes, it is still more cost effective, in most cases, to contract the services of a kosher dedicated trailer fleet.

An OU certified trailer company commits to using only kosher certified products that are approved ahead of time by the OU. They do not switch back and forth between non-kosher and kosher. If a kosher dedicated trailer is on its way from Chicago to California and someone calls asking if they can ship non-kosher wine from California to Texas, the trailer company will say: “We can’t.”

And since the great majority of liquid bulk commodities are kosher, their commitment to reliability carries minimal risk.

The process of developing an effective and widespread network of kosher transport nationally has required patience, accommodation, focus and, as important as anything, much appreciated cooperation and assistance, not only from the transportation companies themselves but from manufacturers as well. The latter have required from their suppliers and from the trailers that deliver their goods that they be kosher approved. This way they can rest assured there will be no downtime or any other production or delivery setbacks.

Kosher transport is an essential part of the OU’s vision of growth. We look forward to working with more manufacturing and transport companies, making it as easy as possible to maintain high standards of kosher while meeting their business needs.

OU Kosher Staff