When the world’s largest annual food science exposition convened in Las Vegas in July, the Orthodox Union Kosher Department was well represented. The OU was among 800 exhibitors displaying their wares for the 20,000 attendees at the 2004 Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting and Food Expo, held from July 12-16 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
“This is one of the most important ingredient shows in the world and it is extremely important for the OU to be represented there,” stated Rabbi Gad Buchbinder, Director of Development for OU Kosher. “Our knowledge and experience will be available for exhibitors and attendees alike.”
“Food science” deals in great part with ingredients, a field in which the OU has enormous expertise. In order for food to be kosher, every ingredient — whether natural or produced by food chemists — must be kosher. The OU maintains a registry, which is continually being updated, of more than 250,000 ingredients. A newly created flavor, for example may have 100 separate ingredients, according to Rabbi Nathan Neuberger, Co-Director of the OU Flavor Department, in an article about flavors he wrote for the Winter 2004 issue of Behind the Union Symbol, the magazine of OU Kosher.
“Such submissions (of ingredients from flavor companies) generate so much work than an entire staff of able food analysts works full-time to be sure that all OU flavors will be kosher,” Rabbi Neuberger continued. “Each ingredient submitted is reviewed and checked with our database. If the ingredient does not exist on the database, or if a new source is listed for a previously-used ingredient, a review is done to see whether the new ingredient is acceptable.”
This kind of expertise was displayed in Las Vegas by the OU delegation.
The IFT Expo was attended by “all of the major ingredients players,” including manufacturers of ingredients and manufacturers who want to know what new ingredients are available,” explained Rabbi Buchbinder. The OU brought its “major players” as well, including Rabbi Moshe Elefant, Executive Rabbinic Coordinator of OU Kosher; ingredients experts Rabbi Chaim Goldzweig of Chicago and Rabbi Abraham Juravel of the OU’s National office in New York; and Rabbi Buchbinder.
“Our ingredients experts are not just OU experts. They are experts, period,” Rabbi Buchbinder declared.
The Expo, said Rabbi Buchbinder, “serves as an opportunity to contact OU certified companies who will be in attendance and to discuss with them any issues they may have. The show also enables us to explain our services to other companies and how achieving kosher certification from the OU, given the enormous growth in the kosher industry, can strengthen their business.”