Additives, Components, Ingredients, Processing Aids: Kosher Definitions
By Rabbi Akiva Tendler
The OU symbol represents strict oversight of ingredient usage and production processes for OU- certified products. Of the many critical control points in kosher production, ingredient control cannot be over-emphasized. All ingredients, no matter how insignificant or their quantity, must be declared and documented as approved by the OU by being listed on the Schedule A (kosher-approved supplier list), before being used in kosher production.
However, there is still room for confusion. What is the definition of an “ingredient”? Merriam Webster’s Dictionary website offers several definitions.
1. One of the things that are used to make a food, product, etc.
2. A quality or characteristic that makes something possible.
Just below that, a full definition is offered:
1. Something that enters into a compound or is a component part of any combination or mixture.
The first two definitions would include processing aids, whereas the third definition does not. In order for a product to be certified kosher by the OU, all processing aids that have intentional contact with product must also be kosher-approved.
As an example, a canned sliced mushroom label may declare the ingredients to be mushrooms, sodium and water. However, there may be processing aids such as rice starch in which the mushrooms are hydrated. The rice starch is not listed on the ingredient label since it is a processing agent. Its purpose is to keep the mushroom firm so that it maintains its form during the cutting process. This processing agent must be kosher-approved as well, despite its not being an ingredient.
Another example may include lubricants for equipment that make direct food contact. Upon inspecting a water bottling facility, it was noticed that the micron filter was lubricated with glycerin to enable the tubular fibrous filters to be inserted in the metal casing. Although the company will tend to flush the filter and drop the initial water to flush the glycerin, preferably only kosher glycerin should be used.
In summation, any agent that has intentional food contact should be kosher-certified. However, cleaning aids used to clean the production equipment, which only have incidental food contact, do not need to be kosher-certified.
After a successful career as Dean of Students at a private college, Rabbi Tendler joined the Kosher Division of the Orthodox Union. His areas of expertise include oil refining and oil seed by-products, as well as tea and other beverages. Rabbi Tendler lectures for OU community outreach programs on a wide variety of kosher topics.