Ask the Rabbi

Dear Rabbi:

Our plant processes and cans fruits and vegetables. The raw fruits and vegetables are of course all kosher. Why would I need to receive OU kosher certification; wouldn’t everyone know that my products are kosher? Can you explain what would be involved in attaining kosher certification for my plant?

Answer by Rabbi Leonard Steinberg

Dear ________________:

Canneries present several concerns regarding the kosher status of their products. The first concern is the product itself. Are all ingredients kosher including the additives that may go into a fruit or vegetable? Next we are concerned with what else may be produced on the same equipment. Very often a plant that cans fruit or vegetables in season will can soups or meats in off-season. This can compromise the equipment so that anything produced on it will not be kosher. Another issue is shared steam systems where the condensate returned from a non-kosher product can be used in cooking a kosher product, which would render the product non-kosher. Some types of products also require rabbinic participation in their cooking in order to be considered kosher.

Kosher consumers will look for a reliable certification on any canned product because that tells them that all issues have been addressed and the product is indeed kosher. Without the certification the consumer must be wary that one of the above issues has compromised the product.

When you apply for certification, the OU will arrange for an initial inspection by one of our expert field representatives. The inspection will cover the ingredients and production processes. The OU field representative will file a report with the OU Kosher office taking into account all pertinent kosher issues. If there are any problems the OU office will work with you to find a solution to the problem. After resolution of all issues and approval of all ingredients, the OU certification contract outlining your kosher program will be written and once signed, your product will be OU certified.

Rabbi Leonard Steinberg is an Orthodox Union rabbinic coordinator handling new applications in the foodservice and food transportation fields. He also manages university kosher meal programs.