OK Kosher takes great pride in the departmental structure of our agency. Our rabbis have varied areas of expertise (many have more than one area of specialty!) and our organization is structured to maximize the impact of each rabbi’s knowledge and provide consumers with kosher products that uphold the highest standards of kashrus. We have an Ingredient Department staffed by rabbis with food chemistry training and many years of technical field experience, we have rabbis who are dairy experts overseeing the cheese facilities, etc.
One of our more recent departmental additions is the Tolaim Committee, tasked with staying on top of the latest developments in produce infestation and checking techniques. Whenever a product with a potential for infestation is considered for certification, the Tolaim Committee is consulted to ensure that a product bearing the OK symbol is ready to eat without further consumer intervention.
So, what exactly does the committee do? There are various types of produce that are evaluated for infestation, including fresh, frozen, freezedried and dried/dehydrated. When a product is submitted for approval (for use in an OK certified product) or for certification, the committee evaluates whether it is a product that is prone to insect infestation and the level of infestation. Sometimes, the infestation levels are well known and sometimes it’s a product that hasn’t been extensively researched before, like amaranth and shiso.
Typically, we request that the company send us samples so that we can evaluate the product in our inhouse lab, without pressure or time constraints. Infestation levels vary depending on the product, the process, the region where the product is grown and the season, so ongoing sampling is often required. After we have done the necessary research, the Tolaim Committee can make a decision. Sometimes we reject the product completely; sometimes we reject a particular source, season or region; sometimes we approve the product with periodic sample checks; and, sometimes the product requires very frequent sample checks to maintain certification. The committee also guides companies by recommending methods of cultivation, washing and processing that can aid in eliminating insects in the final product.
Another function of the Tolaim Committee is the research of produce often used by consumers at home and in our food service establishments. The research guides our recommendations for proper washing and checking of produce and is compiled in our Vegetable Checking Guide (available free of charge in print from our office, online at www.ok.org and in the iOS and GooglePlay stores). From time to time, we may be notified of infestation issues in our certified products and we research these to determine if the infestation is caused by a storage issue, or if a recall or alert is required.
In the lab we have multiple mashgichim who are working on research. This allows us a more accurate reading of the data, as there is more than one set of eyes checking the products. In addition, Rabbinic Coordinators who
specialize in bedikas tolaim supervise the mashgichim, review their findings and formulate conclusions about the status of the produce in question. Situations that require additional rabbinic guidance are forwarded to HaRav Usher Eckstein shlit”a, a recognized expert in bedikas tolaim.
How is the produce checked?
Produce that is inspected in our lab is checked through the mesh cloth/ shmatte method (outlined in detail in the Vegetable Checking Guide). Produce is washed in a basin with soap and filtered water and the water is then checked by draining it through a mesh cloth. Depending on the level of research we are conducting, the mashgiach may dispose of the product after washing or, perhaps, wash it another time to see what the results are after a second wash. The findings from each inspection are electronically documented and submitted to the Tolaim Committee for a conclusive decision.
Initially, the lab was exclusive to our Global Headquarters in New York, but we recently opened an additional lab in our office in Israel. The Israeli branch of the committee will also audit mashgichim in the field, both actual fields and production facilities.
Dole Fresh Vegetables Comes Under OK Kosher Supervision
Now you can have your salad and eat it too.
Dole Fresh Vegetables, a subsidiary of Dole Food Company and a leading brand for fresh, fast and healthy salad solutions, is now certified by OK Kosher Certification. The transition, which kicked off earlier this year, demonstrates the produce company’s commitment to quality, purity and, of course, acceptability in the religious sector (sourcing, as well as intensive infestation control, are both prime features in the kosher program for produce operations).
Dole Fresh Vegetables which covers salad blends, chopped salads, shredded vegetables, romaine hearts, salad kits and slaw, selected OK Kosher to partner with on this new endeavor. “One of the core tenets of Dole’s mission is a full commitment to transparency in all our operations,” stated Aaron Schneider, Dole Food Company’s Director of Food Safety and Quality Assurance Supply Chain, North America. “Another is to empower all consumers to be able to select the highest-quality fresh food possible for their lives. Having this third party guidance and supervision with OK Kosher allows us to further fulfill those missions with the kosher community. We stand behind the quality and purity of of our Dole vegetable products, and this certification by OK reinforces that commitment.”
As with many key food and beverage companies, OK Kosher remains a top choice for premier service, professionalism and an efficient application of kosher regulatory structure for the highest level of compliance possible.
The certification program under OK Kosher includes full-scale supervision of several farms and facilities across the US. OK Kosher’s Rabbinic Coordinator, Rabbi Yakov Teichman, heads the kosher program for Dole and supervises the many field representatives, or mashgichim (rabbis trained in the protocols of the kosher requirements of their respective assignments), as well as OK Kosher’s Fresh Produce Team – expert rabbis versed in the extensive kosher laws and realities of precluding infestation issues in produce. Rabbi Fogelman, Director of Public Relations at OK Kosher, highlighted the “appropriateness of the match between OK Kosher and Dole in light of our expertise in the area of produce pest research and control.” OK Kosher recently updated and rereleased the latest version of their Consumer Bug-Checking Guide (available both online and as an app), developed by their experts based in OK Kosher’s New York laboratory. Dole’s program consists of extensive sample checks at both the facility level and in the OK Kosher lab. Consumers should be advised that only products and specific lots bearing the OK Kosher symbol are under kosher certification, including salad kits which contain dressings, most of which are Pareve, and some with the OK-D (Dairy) distinction.
Kosher certification, in general, is becoming an increasingly important regulatory measure, with a rapidly growing market both in the US and globally. Currently, OK Kosher certifies an array of products for Dole Fresh Vegetables, with plans to add more in the near future. With OK Kosher certification, consumers with religious, allergy and other dietary standards can now rely on the quality and convenience of Dole Fresh Vegetables at retailers nationwide.