Lo Basi Ella L’orer: Creating Mirsas

The Gemara Avoda Zara 61b teaches that if one is מטהר יינו של עובד כוכבים ברשותו (produces kosher wine for a non-Jew in the non-Jew’s premises) even a double chosem is inadequate to protect the wine against possible tampering. The wine requires as an additional safeguard the presence of a mashgiach who sits and watches or who makes periodic unannounced visits ((שאינו בא לקיצין. Rav Belsky often quotes this Gemara as the basis for hashgacha today. We see how great was the view that Chazal had for unannounced visits that they equate it to having a mashgiach sitting and watching!

Unannounced visits:
Rav Belsky often stresses that the requirement of unannounced visits also means that one must follow an unpredictable visiting schedule. A mashgiach should not consistently visit a plant on a Tuesday or always make morning visits, but should really follow a seemingly random pattern. He recommends that a mashgiach that is scheduled to make monthly visits, should occasionally visit twice in one week, and forgo a visit in a future month, to show the company that he can really come at any time. This should be cleared ahead of time with the RC for the company to avoid any billing issues. The Chochmas Adam 79:12 writes (ואפילו שהה זמן רב אם לא הודיעו שהוא מפליג) the mashgiach may even stay away along time between visits so long as he can be expected at any time. A mashgiach should certainly never say at the end of the visit “see you next month”.

A related problem is that of plants which operate through the night and on Shabbos (24/7). Although the RFR is dedicated and works very long hours, the companies will soon learn that that he never visits them at 3 AM or on Shabbos. Therefore, in order to maintain the mirsas in plants which also operate during “non-business” hours, the RFR must occasionally visit the plants in the middle of the night and on Shabbos. Rav Belsky went so far as to say that it would be worthwhile for an RFR to stay in a hotel for Shabbos and miss tefillah b’tzibbur and krias haTorah in order to be able to make such a visit.

The more a company invests in kosher the greater the mirsas:
The Chochmos Adam 79:12 explains that we say that a double chosem is ineffective when being מטהר יינו של עובד כוכבים ברשותו only if the non-Jew did not incur tircha or substantial expenses in producing the kosher wine. However, if the non-Jew paid for the hashgacha and was required to rigorously clean and kasher his equipment then the regular system of chosamos is adequate. A company that undergoes tircha in becoming kosher, appreciates it that much more. This slightly lessens the overall concern that the company would deliberately try to tamper with the product. It is basic human psychology that the more a person invests in a program the less likely they are to try to jeopardize it. It is important to foster this sense of pride that companies have in being OU certified.

Frequency of visits:
A greater frequency of visits creates a stronger level of mirsas. Companies that use sensitive ingredients such as kosher cheese, wine, grape juice, glycerin or gelatin require greater mirsas and therefore require increased visitation. These ingredients are considered more sensitive because they have non-kosher equivalents which are much cheaper. Companies that produce either dairy/pareve or kosher/non-kosher need even more visitations. Even a factory that only deals in kosher, but can easily produce non-kosher as well, must be watched very closely. One example of such a scenario is an all kosher smokehouse. The equipment is compatible with non-kosher meats and fish, and tight controls are required to ensure they’re not servicing non-kosher clients. In one case, the owner of a smokehouse was caught smoking non-kosher fish afterhours for his own private party.

Where used reports:
Aside from creating mirsas in the schedule A department, there is also a need to properly audit the schedule B. Rabbi Luban recommended at the Mashgichim conference that in mixed plants (Dairy/Pareve, Kosher/non-kosher) the mashgiach should have the company print out for him a where used report for the non-kosher and/or dairy ingredients in the plant and then check this list against the schedule B. For example if the company has a non-kosher cheese flavor, a report should be printed that shows all the products that used this ingredient since his last visit. It is also important that reviews be made of label rooms to make sure that the OU symbol does not appear on uncertified products. (If you are interested in having Rabbi Dovid Irons conduct a label review in plants where there are dairy/pareve or kosher/non-kosher concerns please contact Rabbi Katzenstein.) Sometimes the best way to create mirsas in a company is by demonstrating that you are organized and thorough.

OU Kosher Staff