These days we have a plethora of kosher restaurants-and a plethora of kosher agencies to supervise them. This has created a problem. Since kosher certification has become easier to obtain, restaurants have less incentive to keep their kosher standards up to par. They know that if one supervision agency removes its certification, another certification can easily be found.

One restaurant had two supervisors, for the morning and evening shifts. The evening supervisor often reported kosher problems that required correction, while the morning supervisor never did. One day, the evening supervisor found the chef cooking fish and meat together. When the supervisor tried to remove the fish, the chef got upset and struck the supervisor.

The certifying agency demanded that the owner immediately fire the chef, and he agreed. The next day, the head rabbi of the agency called the establishment and asked the morning supervisor if the chef had been fired. The supervisor said that he had been. Unfortunately for him, the chef picked up the other phone at the same time saying, “Chef speaking.”

As the owner had been dishonest, the kosher agency immediately removed its certification. Within the hour, however, the restaurant found another certifying agency. The original supervising agency informed the second that the morning supervisor was unreliable. The second agency gave its certification regardless, and the morning supervisor is still employed in that restaurant.

Some kosher certifying agencies have adopted a policy that if one agency drops its certification because of kosher problems (i.e. not logistic or business reasons), no other agency will certify that establishment until they make sure the original kosher problems have been resolved. This system prevents a “race to the bottom,” in which food producers and suppliers select agencies with lower and lower standards, thus driving down standards of kosher. However, not all kosher agencies adhere to this policy.
A few years ago, a restaurant was found to be using unauthorized ingredients. The certifying agency told the restaurant owners that they needed to increase the number of kosher supervisors. The owners opted instead to change to a different kosher supervision. Several agencies refused to certify this restaurant unless it hired more supervisors, in keeping with the principle outlined above. One agency ignored the principle and took over the certification without insisting on more supervisors.

The only solution to this problem is for all kosher agencies to voluntarily adopt a consistent set of standards.

Standards for OK Supervised Restaurants:
Meat: Glatt only, Hasidic ritual slaughterer,received double-sealed.
Fish Products: Must be supervised since processing, received double-sealed.
Bread and Cake: Pas Yisroel (Bread of Israel) only.
Vegetables: Checked for bugs by in-house supervisor, or purchased pre-washed from supervised vendor.
Wine: Must be cooked. If not, must be handled and served only by special supervisor.
Dairy products: Cholov Yisroel (Milk of Israel), select companies only.