At Martek, Quality Assurance and OU Kosher Certification Go Hand in Hand

OU Kosher Staff

When I first met with Ms. Susan Patton, Director of Quality Assurance of Martek Bioscience in Winchester, KY in its original flagship manufacturing plant, I had the feeling that the relationship between Martek and the OU for kosher certification would be a natural fit. It is now commonly accepted by experts that the best nutrition source for a developing infant was set up by the Good Lord himself. Mother’s milk contains a host of nutrients which promote development in all areas, including growth; antibodies which give immunity to many diseases; together with brain development and the better likelihood of living a long, healthy and productive life. Even the containers of the leading infant formulas point out that when possible, breast feeding is the best way to provide health and nutrition to the developing infant.

There is a famous rabbi who is still going strong at around the age of 95 (may he live and be well for many more years to come), who attributes his longevity in robust health to his mother nursing him until the age of two. Having said all that, there are many situations (especially in modern life) which arise in which breastfeeding is not an option. Martek has been in the forefront of manufacturing ingredients which assist in the continuing effort to try to have infant formulas replicate mother’s milk as much as possible. Its original flagship product, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) long chain omega-3 fatty acid ingredient as well as its ARA (arachidonic acid), are very important nutrients used worldwide by the leading infant formula manufacturers to assist in promoting brain development as well as cardiovascular health for babies who need to be fed on infant formula.

The manufacturing of ingredients that go into baby formulas is a very serious business requiring rigorous quality controls to ensure that a healthy and reliable product is produced for the most vulnerable segment of the human race — infants. Martek has won the respect and business of the leading infant formula manufacturers due to a corporate culture of understanding rigorous quality control and guaranteeing it. This corporate culture is a natural fit for working with the OU so that all requirements are met for their products to be certified OU Kosher.

Production involves using nutrients in a scale-up fermentation process, starting from inoculation in an initial flask and moving forward through seed and main fermentors. Product is then dried and the oil extracted and refined, bleached and deodorized. Kosher compliance requires that all ingredients used as well as equipment meet OU pareve standards for their pareve products and OU dairy standards for their dairy certified products.

In 2003, Martek purchased Fermpro Manufacturing in Kingstree, SC. The Fermpro plant was primarily a contract manufacturer, selling its expertise and the reliability of its plant to leading enzyme and biotechnology manufacturers worldwide in need of a plant location to manufacture their products. It was a natural fit for a rigorous quality control-oriented company such as Martek, for to be successful in contract manufacturing it is necessary to demonstrate reliability and to win the confidence of one’s customers.

Contract manufacturing is also a kosher challenge as it involves working with numerous new ingredients proposed by the contract manufacturer and ascertaining that they are acceptable for use in a product requiring kosher certification, or even in a product not needing kosher certification, ensuring that its usage does not cause equipment in the plant to be rendered non-kosher. Currently the Kingstree, SC plant is used for manufacture of ARA & DHA products in addition to Winchester, KY, and as a contract manufacturer under the entity Martek Biosciences Kingstree Corporation.

Sue Patton has since retired but her successors in Winchester, Mr. Tim Bailey and now Mr. Randy Jones, as well as Ms. Rachel Montgomery, Director of Quality Assurance for Kingstree and Ms. Dennie Duke, QA Auditor in Kingstree, have proven themselves to be up to the QA and kosher challenges. All the personnel we deal with in Martek have shown themselves to be most responsive and aware of what is necessary to assure that despite the challenges, they maintain an exemplary OU Kosher program.

Our rabbinic field representatives who visit their main manufacturing locations, Rabbi Yosef Levy in Winchester, and Rabbi Hesh Epstein, in Kingstree, have a very good working relationship with Martek personnel. As Martek works to develop new products and face new challenges, we are confident that based on its corporate culture, we are in an environment in which the long Martek-OU relationship will serve the public in assuring that bioscience products of the highest caliber, as well as kosher status, are available for the world’s benefit.