Similar to most government inspections, OU visits are unannounced. That means that a plant does not start preparing for its OU visit at a specific time; rather, a plant is always preparing and is always prepared.
When a plant is in this state of preparedness, OU visits are smooth, and the kosher program is basically hassle-free and can actually contribute to the overall quality assurance protocol as a welcomed enhancement.
Here are some guidelines, which have proven to be crucial and of inestimable benefit in being prepared for OU plant visits and assuring they go smoothly:
- Keep a current, updated file of letters of kosher certification for all ingredients. The file can be electronic. It is recommended that each document in the file feature or correlate with plant raw material codes, and that standard operating procedure include an update to this file upon every raw material change.
- Schedule A, the OU ingredient list, should likewise be linked with standard operating procedure for raw material changes, such that every raw material change includes Schedule A clearance.
- Schedule A often features ingredients that are certified kosher only when accompanied by lot-specified letters of certification. All such ingredients should be noted, with a live file for lot-specific letters of certification that covers all current inventory of these ingredients.
- Ingredients delivered in bulk liquid form are reviewed by the OU rabbinic field
- representative (“RFR”) against Schedule A by consulting bills of lading and receiving logs when at the plant. Please be sure that there is always someone on hand with ready access to this documentation for review by the OU RFR.
- When review of temperature data is part of a plant’s kosher program, please be sure that there is always someone on hand with ready access to this data.
- It is absolutely critical that there be a designated (and knowledgeable!) plant contact for OU visits, as well as a backup contact. These contacts should not be clerical staff; rather, they should be managerial staff who have an intimate understanding of the plant’s operations, and who can readily get information for the RFR when they do not already know or have it.
- Internal plant formulas should correlate with Schedule A approval. In other words, verification that each formula has been cleared with and matches Schedule A should be part of standard operating procedure and should be built into the plant’s formula system. This is incredibly useful in many ways, and it enables seamless formula review by the RFR during OU visits.
- Schedule B, the list of OU-certified products, needs to correlate with the development of new products and the termination of old products. Standard operating procedure for the plant’s product system should feature OU Schedule B approval/label approval for every new product, as well as notification to the OU upon every product termination and product name/label change.
- If product labels are not arranged in a manner that enables efficient and relatively quick on-site auditing, then a current, live collection of all product labels should be organized and maintained for review by the OU RFR when visiting.
- The plant’s OU visit contact should be sure to inform the RFR upon each visit of all recent and anticipated changes in the plant, whether in terms of new ingredients, new products, new equipment, or anything else.
These procedures have been proven successful. They prevent kosher errors, enable seamless and efficient OU visits, and protect the kosher and overall integrity of a plant’s operations.
RABBI AVROHOM GORDIMER IS A RABBINIC COORDINATOR AT OU KOSHER, SPECIALIZING IN THE DAIRY INDUSTRY. HE IS ALSO A MEMBER OF THE NEW YORK BAR, AND LIVES IN MANHATTAN WITH HIS WIFE AND CHILDREN.