This is the first in series of articles highlighting innovative approaches by OK Kosher to ensure the highest quality standards in Kosher Supervision.
Charlie and the Candy Factory
Charlie B. is a production manager on the factory floor at the D-lish Confection Company, producing fine New England candies from family recipes that go back over a hundred years. Charlie works closely with the Kosher supervisor, Rabbi Z., to make sure that all of D-lish’s candies can be certified “Kosher parve”-Kosher candies that can be eaten after both meat and milk dishes. Working from the secret D-lish formulas, Charlie prepares a Master Ingredient List from which Rabbi Z. verifies the Kosher status of all the components that go into D-Lish candies.
Year after year, the very same products come off the lines at Charlie’s candy factory. With no meat or milk products to watch, Rabbi Z.’s intermittent spot checks are enough to ensure D-Lish’s Kosher standards, and he knows that he can trust Charlie to apprise him of any changes-in ingredients or suppliers-that might affect the factory’s status.
Charlie is thorough, and his Master Ingredient List includes every component used year-round at D-lish. So it took them both by unpleasant surprise when, one gray November day, Rabbi Z.’s spot check uncovered a product whose ingredients had never made it to Charlie’s master list. What happened?
Each year, for one week in November, D-lish produces a seasonal confection, Mister Kringle’s Soft Kandy Kane. It’s a short run on only one production line of many. The problem? The master list doesn’t include ingredients not used in standard production. In fact, the Soft Kandy Kane had only one minor component that wasn’t already on the master list anyway. Unbeknownst to Charlie, however, the “one minor component”-gelatin from a non-Kosher animal source-jeopardized the Kosher status of an entire production line. Who knows how many “Kosher parve” candies had been neither “Kosher” nor “parve” over the years?
Fictional Situation, Factual Problems
Fortunately for Charlie, Rabbi Z., and thousands of Kosher consumers, the “D-lish Confection Company” and its mismarked “Kosher parve” candies are fictitious. But the potential for such a scenario-in which a single non-Kosher ingredient can compromise dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of products-lurks inevitably behind the scenes in factories under traditional Kosher supervision. And while a modern facility might catalog its product ingredients in a computerized database, when a change takes place-a meat, dairy, or even non-Kosher ingredient enters the picture-it remains almost impossible to track the problem through the entire production system to find the affected products and update their Kosher certification.
The Solution: KCert Formula Tracking from Kashrus.com
Enter Kashrus.com and its comprehensive program, which marshals the power of cyber-age technologies to raise the bar on Kosher supervision. With its KCert Formula Tracking program, Kashrus.com has created Kosher-specific database software that permits the supervising agency to keep an accurate, up-to-date inventory of every ingredient and track all of the formulas in the plants they oversee. Without tracking formulas, even a company with a computerized database will not be able to find all the applications of a new ingredient, or one whose status has changed. With Kashrus.com’s program, it is possible to instantaneously find every product that is affected by any new development in the company’s ingredients. Further, the entire database is cross-referenced, so that a single change can be traced throughout all of the companies under the agency’s supervision.
OK Kosher puts KCert to Work
Necessity is the mother of invention, and like most important innovations, Kashrus.com’s drive to develop KCert Formula Tracking came from the practical concerns and real-world experience in the field of Kosher supervision. “Probably,” “most likely,” or even “almost definitely Kosher” have never been sufficient standards for Rabbi Don Yoel Levy and his staff of rabbinical supervisors at OK Kosher, and the difficulty in tracking ingredient changes was a glaring problem that demanded their attention. In response to OK Kosher’s desire to provide supervision of uncompromising quality, Kashrus.com developed and perfected the KCert program that OK Kosher now uses to track the formulas for every company under its supervision.
OK Kosher has spared no expense in time, manpower, or financial investment to develop an infrastructure that ensures the consumer that the food products under its supervision are 100% Kosher, exactly as marked. Obviously, no system is foolproof, but formula tracking adds invaluable levels of safeguarding to Kosher supervision. Thanks to the computerized database, on a daily basis the OK prevents mistakes and inconsistencies that could have adversely affected the Kosher status of the products, even in an all-Kosher factory. (See sidebar, “Proactive and Reactive Supervision.”)
And D-lish Confections? With a strict requirement (like the OK’s) of obtaining formulas for all products, even in an all-kosher factory, and a policy of having the supervising Rabbi cross check the production log and actual batch card to ensure that all information was properly sent in, Rabbi Z.’s supervising agency would have discovered the non-kosher animal gelatin just minutes after Charlie submitted his factory’s formulas. Rabbi Z. would have known to kosherize the line. Or better yet, D-lish could have found a substitute ingredient well in advance, thereby keeping all the factory’s products kosher as marked.
Win/Win/Win: Kashrus.com, KCert, and Digital Kosher
In designing its computerized formula tracking system, Kashrus.com was concerned first and foremost with the supervising agencies and their responsibility to the consumer to assure the integrity of Kosher products. But while KCert helps agencies such as OK Kosher keep track of formulas, how would the supervised companies keep up with the increased demand for information? Kashrus.com has interlinked with a separate service-Digital Kosher-that completely streamlines formula submission for the supervised company and allows it to obtain necessary paperwork quickly and easily. Information can be submitted electronically, and if any questions do arise, the company can receive answers within minutes. And there are substantial benefits: Digital Kosher offers the company a more accurate, real-time view of its production, allowing more exacting quality control that acts as a safeguard against liability for mislabeled products-and multimillion-dollar lawsuits.
Electronic Formula Tracking: Part of the Big Picture at OK Kosher
Electronic formula tracking is only one of the many ways that OK Kosher sets the pace in providing the highest standards currently available in Kosher supervision. As food science advances and the Kosher market continues to grow, OK Kosher will continue to explore new means to use technology to expand and improve its services on behalf of consumers and food producers.
Chaim Zalman Levy is Kosher editor of Kosher Spirit.