OU Recommendations for Vaad HaKashrus Supervision

A position paper presented by Rabbi Yaakov Luban, OU Executive Rabbinic Coordinator at the ASK OU-RCA Yom Iyun held at OU Headquarters, NYC, May 1, 2007.
“Current Issues Facing the Local Vaad HaKashruth

Rabbis/Rav Hamachshir

All individuals who have final responsibility for determining Vaad standards and procedures must, at a minimum, have Orthodox Semicha from a recognized Rabbinic individual or institution and pray only in Orthodox synagogues.

Optimally, such individuals should have specific training and experience in practical aspects of Kashrus supervision.

Mashgichim

1. All individuals who serve as Mashgichim should be committed to full Shemiras Shabbos and Shemiras Mitzvos and pray only in Orthodox synagogues.

2. Optimally, such individuals should have specific training and experience in practical aspects of Kashrus supervision.

3. It is self-evident that it is preferable that a Mashgiach be paid by the Kashrus organization and not by the supervised facility. Unfortunately, this is generally not a viable option for semi or full-time Mashgiachim of establishments because of insurance considerations.

4. There is value in a semi or full-time Mashgiach having no other competing or distracting responsibilities other than Kashrus supervision. Realistically, this places a heavy and difficult financial burden on the supervised establishment and, in practice, such arrangements are rarely feasible. What is generally referred to as a “working Mashgiach” is the most common method of supervision. Nonetheless, a “working Mashgiach” should have the following essential elements built in:

a) The Mashgiach is free from other responsibilities whenever a Kashrus need arises, such as checking deliveries or Bedikas Tolayim.

b) The working Mashgiach is not required to perform menial tasks such as washing dishes or waiting on tables, which would significantly undermine the stature and authority of the Mashgiach.

5. It is common for Kosher supervisors to rely on a Shomer Shabbos owner to self-supervise an establishment. While this may be halachically justifiable, based on the principle of eid echod neomon bi’ussurin, this arrangement does not constitute effective hashgocha or supervision. Some of the high profile cases of recent years, where Shomer Shabbos proprietors were caught selling non-kosher product, underscore the inherent deficiency of this arrangement.

As a matter of policy, the OU does not endorse restaurants or caterers unless there is a Mashgiach present who does not have a financial interest in the facility. While this policy is undoubtedly one to aspire to, individual Rabbonim must assess the Kashrus needs of their communities and determine whether it is feasible to maintain such standards.

Level of Supervision

The ideal supervision is that of hashgocho temidis. However, hashgacha temidis is generally not feasible and, in such instances, “yotzei vinichnas” is an acceptable alternative.

An example of yotzei vinichnas is found in the Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Daya, 69:10, where a non-Jew cooked meat after melicha and it is presumed that he performed hadacha achrona based on yotzei vinichnas. The Rama (ibid) explains that yotzei vinichnas establishes a “mirsas”, and therefore, the non-Jew can be trusted if he is familiar with the “minhag yisrael”.

A critical question is what level of supervision constitutes “yotzei vinichnas” and is sufficient to create a “mirsas”? Presumably, the Shulchan Aruch intentionally leaves the definition of yotzei vinichnas undefined because the requirements vary according to what is required to establish a mirsas with the particular aino Yehudi, and this hinges on many factors such as: the personality of the non-Jew, the severity of the potential consequences to the non-Jew if he is caught violating minhag yisroel, the availability of other forms of employment if the non-Jew would be suspended because of a violation, etc.

Nonetheless, it is possible to formulate some generally accepted guidelines which will assist the local Rabbonim to establish frequencies of visitation.

a) An establishment that uses meat and poultry products requires very strong supervision because of the very significant price differential between Kosher and non-Kosher. This means that the Mashgiach must lock or seal the product at night and open or break the seal in the morning to insure that the integrity of supervision was maintained.

It is strongly recommended that a Mashgiach Temidi be present during all hours of operation for such establishments. Bedieved, in case of necessity, a very frequent yotzei venichnos a few times a day would be acceptable. However, the yotzei venichnes must appear at random and unpredictable times. In addition, all meat and poultry that have no simonei Kashrus must be under lock and key overnight. This means that a Mashgiach must be present at closing to lock or seal the coolers, and open or break the locks and seals the following day to insure the integrity of supervision.

If a non-Shomer Shabbos person has a key to the lock, it is tantamount to not having a lock in place. Locks and seals must be tamper-proof. If there is a need to have a key available for security reasons, the key should be placed in a sealed envelope, and the Mashgiach should sign his name two times over the seal. In case of emergency, the proprietor should call (or leave a message if necessary) to explain why the key is being accessed.

b) Establishments that produce food which must be Bishul Yisrael (i.e., the food is aino ne’echal chai and it is oleh at shulchon melachim) must have provisions to control bishul Yisroel. Because it takes only a moment to relight a fire or a pilot light, yotzei vinichnos is generally not adequate to control bishul Yisrael. In such instances, a Mashgiach Temidi is required. Alternatively, a pilot light is acceptable if a lock-out method is devised to make it impossible to relight the pilot light without enlisting the service of the Mashgiach.

c) Factories usually purchase ingredients in bulk and ingredients last for extended periods of time. As such, yotzei vinichnos on a monthly basis is generally sufficient. In some instances, there are additional methods of control available through records and reports which makes less frequent visitation acceptable.

d) Local establishments, such a bakeries and pizza shops, have a quick turn around of ingredients. It is recommended that such establishments be visited at a minimum of once a week at random times.

e) Rabbi Yisrael Belsky Shlita, Halachic consultant for the OU, has often emphasized that yotzei vinichnas must be at varied times and intervals so that the visits do not follow a predictable schedule. In addition, Rabbi Belsky recommends occasional visits on Shabbos and Yom Tov to extend the mirsas to all times of the year.

Ne’emonus

A critical principle upon which all Kashrus supervision must be built is that a person who is not Shomer Torah Umitzvos has no halachic ne’emonus and cannot be trusted. Statements made by parties who lack Halachic Ne’emonus must be independantly verified. In two separate Teshuvos, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, zt’l confirms that even if a person has a reputation for honesty and integrity, there is no ne’emonus for one who is not Shomer Mitzvos (Igros Moshe 40, I:54 and II:43) .