Kosher Certification Opens Key Market
Donald Marsh - MILK PRODUCTS SUPPLEMENT
“Cleanliness is next to G-dliness” is more than an adage to millions of Jews in the United States who buy only dairy products that are certified Kosher by an authorized rabbinical source.
Despite USDA, FDA, and various state and local governmental inspections, a certain segment of the market is lost to dairy processors who fail to provide some form of Kosher certification on their products.
For companies such as Kraft & Co. this means that facilities used in manufacturing all varieties of Philadelphia Brand cream cheese, the packaging, and all ingredients must have Kosher certification, so Kraft must buy only from suppliers whose products are certified as Kosher.
The committee for the Furtherance of Torah Observance is headed by Rabbi Bernard Levy, who travels worldwide to inspect facilities and products of more than 150 food manufacturers and suppliers; he supervises a staff of 45 rabbis (called mashgiach). Kosher certification by this group is identified by a “K” within a circle.
The need for Kosher supervision at dairy industry supplier plants is illustrated by the chemical specialties division of PVO International, Inc., of Boonton, N.J., which recently expanded its line of vegetable-oil-based emulsifiers and stabilizers and packaging material additives to include animal-oil-based products to give producers of non-Kosher products the option of less expensive emulsifiers and stabilizers with no loss in quality. When only vegetable oils were used as raw materials, all output was Kosher, needing only periodic inspection a couple of times a month, or purchasing records to ascertain purity of supply. Now that tallow (a meat product) as an alternate raw material and vegetable oil are being used in the same line supervision is more complicated. When tallow production is finished, the equipment is cleaned thoroughly and can’t be used for 24 hours. Then the “mashgiach” arrives to supervise all additional steps: he seals tallow lines, sees that boiling water is run through the entire system to “Kosherize” it after which Kosher production may begin.
In addition to Kraft, the committee for the Furtherance of Torah Observance certifies dairy products manufactured by such organizations as Dairylea cooperative, the Daitch-Shopwell supermarket chain, Sealtest Foods, and the Carvel Franchise System, all New York state operations.
Rabbi Levy is more than an expert on Jewish dietary laws, possessing wide knowledge of many aspects of food processing for, he says that, today, “Kosher supervision is complicated. We need to know chemistry, testing techniques, such as gas and paper chromatography, and modern food production technology.
“Our clients take us into their complete confidence; we must examine their records as well as their plants; we must know the secret formulas of synthetic flavorings, as well as who is selling and buying from “whom.”
Increased use of chemical additives in food processing calls upon the “mashgiach” to make decisions never foreseen in the Talmud, the books of Jewish law.
Manufacturers consider the cost of Kosher certification as they do any marketing or advertising expense — one that pays for itself because it helps reach a market that is otherwise unobtainable.
There are few reliable statistics on the size of the U.S. market for Kosher dairy products, but manufacturers who use Kosher identification feel it is an important selling point in reaching the nation’s almost 6 million Jews.
Under federal regulations, if a dairy product is featured as Kosher but is not prepared in accordance with Jewish dietary law, the product is deemed to be mislabeled and violators are subject to fine and/or imprisonment. Some states have their own laws and penalties for improper labeling of Kosher dairy products and dairy and ice cream firms that use Kosher certification tend to be very serious about compliance with Kosher laws.