Safety and Quality Drive Increased Demand for Kosher Certification
The demand for Kosher certified products has increased dramatically over the past few decades, making Kosher one of the hottest food trends out there. While Jewish consumers have long been devoted to Kosher-designated foods, many non-Jewish consumers have come to appreciate Kosher as well. It relies on unprocessed ingredients, requires high standards of cleanliness, and traceability is a key part of production processes. Many consumers choose these products as an alternative to buying other “untrusted” brands.
Cross-contamination issues, the rise in food allergies and food recalls have also played a role in the increasing importance of Kosher foods: consumers are looking for reliable brands that provide transparency in food production and that have been monitored by another “set of eyes.” Many food companies seek Kosher certification to gain a competitive edge.
What is Kosher?
Kosher is a Hebrew word that means “fit” or “proper,” and it describes foods and practices that are specifically permitted by Jewish dietary laws. “Kashrut” is the body of Jewish law that deals with what foods can be eaten and how those foods must be prepared. Two of the more well-known restrictions involve abstaining from pork, and refraining from mixing meat with dairy products. The foods must be kept completely separate, and a fully Kosher household might have two or more different sets of flatware, tableware and cooking ware for making and serving meat and dairy-based dishes.
These religious practices are rooted in the Jewish faith’s obligation to the Torah, and a dedication to fulfilling its commandments. Many dietary restrictions prohibit the consumption of certain “unclean” animals, and the intention is to maintain the spiritual purity of the food.
Kosher dietary rules state that:
- Meat from permitted animals may only be consumed if the animal is slaughtered in a specific manner that involves the use of salt in the draining of the carcass
- Dairy and meat products must never be mixed, and hygienic practices to control the growth of pathogens are necessary
- Certain products, such as many cheeses and wine, must be prepared in part by someone who is Jewish
- The consumption of shellfish is prohibited
- Fruits and vegetables must be cleanly washed and cleared of any insects
In order to abide by Kosher standards, suppliers must provide certificates for every ingredient in a product and production lines must be closely monitored and audited by a Rabbinic inspector.
Keeping track of all of the details that Kosher certification requires can be overwhelming and a robust traceability program is necessary. There are hundreds of Kosher certifying agencies globally and many of these have developed their own food traceability software to streamline the certification process.
The Kashrut Council of Canada (COR) is Canada’s largest Kosher certifier and a leader in the global Kosher industry. Their certification process involves:
- Completion and submission of an online application that includes details about the company, plant, product and ingredients used
- Application review by a Rabbinic coordinator
- An initial inspection by a Rabbinic Coordinator, which allows him to evaluate the requirements needed to set up a Kosher program
- Development of a post-audit agreement outlining terms for certification
- Once the terms are met, a Kosher certification letter is awarded (this includes a symbol for use on Kosher products)
- Annual inspections to ensure that standards are met and cross-contamination does not occur
It’s important to bear in mind that even though a company has been Kosher certified it is also required to have a Global Food Safety Initiative certification (such as FSSC 22000, BRC, IFS or SQF, etc.). Kosher certification is not viewed as an equivalency.
Importance of a Symbol
Kosher and Halal are not the same, although Muslims often trust Kosher products since they follow similar guidelines with the procurement of animals. The certification symbol is significant in signifying that a product is safe, trusted and “healthy,” and consumers are beginning to recognize labels and remain faithful to a brand. The practice is becoming so important that Kosher products are paving the way for consumer calls for food safety protocols to be implemented in the production of all foods.
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