A Fish Story: How OU Kosher Certifies Fish Products


Back in the old country (regardless of which country was the old country) they didn’t have all these fancy things. Surely we’ve all come across an “old-timer” with a similar commentary about the changing face of clothing styles, technology, and societal attitudes. My guess is that this type of response to the changes associated with mankind’s advances in so many areas has always been there. Imagine the first time someone came to work with buttons on his shirt instead of coins or rocks tied to the edge to keep it closed! How modern!

Screen Shot 2015-03-18 at 3.56.28 PMIt wasn’t all that long ago those “typical” kosher fish products would’ve consisted of gefilte fish, smoked salmon and pickled herring. As with everyone else, the palates of kosher consumers have matured, and there is almost no commercially available fish product which isn’t available in an OU Kosher-certified form. While the primary motivation for kosher fish certification is for consumption in the United States or Israel, manufacturers of fish products from fish oil supplements, to surimi, capelin roe and tilapia skin gelatin (aside from “plain old” frozen raw fish) all wonder what it takes to become OU-certified. This article will identify some of the typical concerns, as well as how we might address them at OU Kosher.

In order to make an OU kosher-certified fish product, one needs to start with a kosher fish. Any raw fish whose scales can be removed without ripping skin would be considered kosher, if the following can be confirmed:

  •  Enough skin is still intact on that fish for the OU rabbinic field representative to visually inspect it and confirm the species of the product. Skinless fish are considered kosher- sensitive (due to issues of species substitution) and will only be accepted when they are skinned under an acceptable kosher supervision at the processing plant.
  • Any additives with which the fish may have been treated are kosher-approved.
  • The fish was not cut in a facility that actively handles non-kosher species, or in a way cross-contamination from non-kosher species may result.

Once the fish in question is confirmed to be kosher, the individual processing plant and method need to be evaluated and confirmed that nothing that may affect the kosher status of that raw fish happens during processing. Here are some examples of potential issues:

  • Equipment is also used for non-kosher fish or non-kosher ingredients (which might be an issue with smoked fish, or other cooked fish products).
  • Ingredients or additives might not be kosher-approved (a frequent concern in surimi production).
  • The process needs to be evaluated to make sure it is in accordance with kosher laws. (For example, cooking tuna loins with boiling water has different kosher concerns that cooking with steam.)

THE CHANGING FACE OF KOSHER FISH PRODUCTS

OU Kosher was recently contacted by an otherwise unlikely customer looking for kosher certification: RCB FISH COMPANY is a small plant in Ledbetter, KY, exporting and trading in locally caught fishes, primarily Asian carp. Dr. Lula Luu is an academic whose passion for proper nutrition, sustainability and providing economic support to local fishers and their families led her to partner with Mr. Andre Raghu to be the kind of business which benefits all parties involved.

Working closely with local, small family fishers, rcb is proud to pay more for their fish than other buyers in exchange for making better quality fish available to the end customer. Rather than just “grab the fish and run,” rcb is investing in the community to help the community-at-large better understand the wonderful bounty coming from the tennessee and ohio rivers. Mr. Raghu proudly described his efforts to assist the fishers in getting fairly priced fishing equipment, to further benefit their bottom lines. For its part, the local government couldn’t be happier to have someone making a concentrated effort to relieve asian carp, an invasive species, from local waterways. Rcb saw the value in getting ou supervision to better tap markets which would be responsive to kosher supervision in their product.

GLOBALIZATION: ANCHOVIES

The affects of our global economy can’t be felt any more than in the processing of anchovies. What seems like an otherwise insignificant feeder fish that would otherwise be a cheap bait fish can be the single product of production facilities around the world looking to export to hungry consumers. OU Kosher proudly certifies producers of both industrial and consumer sized preparations of anchovy products (more than 350 different in-house and private label products) in the world’s centers of anchovy harvest.

THIS INCLUDES GREECE (KALLONI S.A.); PORTUGAL (CONSERVAS PORTUGAL NORTE, FABRICA DE CONSERVAS – A POVEIRA S.A.); SPAIN (CONSERVAS CRESPO S.L.); MOROCCO (AGADIR OCEAN, ANDREXPORT SARL, ATLANTIC SARDINE ANCHOVIES TANTAN (ASAT), CIBEL S.A (COMPLEXE INDUSTRIEL ET COMMERCIAL BELHASSAN S.A), DELIMAR, IMA, MIDAV, SILVER FOOD, SOCIETE NOUVELLE AVEIRO MAROC, UNIMER, UNIMER MEHDIA MOROCCO, VANELLI MAROC S.A.); ARGENTINA (DELICIAS S.A.): CHILE (K Y C SEAFOODS LTDA.); AND PERU (ANDINA DE DESARROLLO ANDESA S.A.C., COMPANIA AMERICANA DE CONSERVAS S.A.C, CONSERVERA DE LAS AMERICAS S.A., INVERSIONES PRISCO S.A.C., PEZ DE EXPORTACION SAC).

RABBI CHAIM GOLDBERG BEGINS HIS 13TH YEAR OF SERVICE AT OU KOSHER. HIS TALENTS CAST A WIDE NET ACROSS MANY AREAS OF KOSHER CERTIFICATION, WITH A SPECIALTY IN THE OCEAN’S KOSHER BOUNTY. IN ADDITION TO SUPERVISING MANY OU-CERTIFIED FISH MANUFACTURING ACCOUNTS, RABBI GOLDBERG HAS COMPLETED HUNDREDS OF INSPECTIONS AT MANUFACTURING PLANTS ON FIVE CONTINENTS. HE STORES HIS PASSPORT IN BROOKLYN, NY.