Kosher Foods

 

What are Kosher Foods?

     Kosher foods are foods that follow the Jewish dietary laws and are considered fit for consumption by Jews who observe these laws. But people from all walks of life are embracing Kosher foods for various reasons such as uniqueness, dietary and health reasons, food quality, purity and safety.

 

Importance of Kosher Foods

     The Demand And Opportunities In The Booming Kosher Market

     According to the Orthodox Union (OU) in New York City, there are over 12 million American consumers who choose Kosher food, over $150 billion of Kosher certified products are consumed annually and Kosher certification appears on over 60% of America’s manufactured foods. The OU claims to be the world’s largest Kosher certification agency, certifying almost 70% of the Kosher food sold worldwide.

 

Background Information

     A brief overview of the Kosher dietary laws:

     The Kosher dietary laws determine which foods are “fit or proper” for Jews and deal predominantly with three issues:        Allowed animals, prohibition of blood, and prohibition of mixing milk and meat.

     Additional laws cover other areas such as grape products, cheese, baking, cooking, tithing, and foods that may not be eaten during        the Jewish festival of Passover.

     Allowed food:
  • Ruminants that chew their cud and have split hooves, e.g., cattle, sheep, buffalo, deer, elk, and goats
    Note:  Because of the difficulty of removing blood vessels and the sciatic nerve from the hindquarter of most ruminants, these portions are generally not used as Kosher in developed countries. The meat eventually goes into the secular market.
  • Domestic birds (chicken, turkey, squab, duck, and goose)
  • Fish with fins and removable scales
  • Some insects:  Locust, grasshopper
  • Some insect products: Honey and edible shellac (lac resin)
  • Grape products handled by Sabbath-observing Jews from grape pressing to final processing (or unless heated after pressing)

     Prohibited food:
  • Pigs, camels, rabbits, and all carnivores
  • Birds of prey and most birds including those in the rattrie category (ostrich, emu, and rhea)
  • All fish without removable scales
  • Crustacean and molluscan shellfish
  • All insects (except Locust and grasshopper)
  • Blood

     Prohibition of Mixing Milk and Meat:

     The processing and handling of all materials and products fall into one of three categories:

  • A meat product
  • A dairy product
  • A neutral product called “pareve,” “parve,” or “parev.”

All plant products (fresh fruits, vegetables and grains) are pareve, along with eggs, fish, honey, and lac resin (shellac). These pareve foods can be used with either meat products or dairy products.

However, if they are mixed with meat or dairy they take on the identity of the product they are mixed with; for example, an egg in a cheese soufflé becomes dairy.


     Kosher Slaughter

     Animals must be slaughtered according to Jewish law by a specially trained religious slaughterman (“shochet”) using a special knife designed for the purpose (“chalef”). The knife must be extremely sharp, free of nicks and have a very straight blade that is at least twice the diameter of the neck of the animal to be slaughtered.

     Meat and poultry must be further prepared by properly removing certain veins, arteries, prohibited fats, blood, and the sciatic nerve. To further remove the prohibited blood, red meat and poultry must then be soaked and salted (“melicha”) within 72 hours of slaughter.  Otherwise it needs to be well washed within the 72 hour period.

    The lungs of all Kosher mammals are inspected. Any lung adhesions need to be removed and the lung must still be intact.


     Passover Holiday

     During Passover leavened products from certain grains (wheat, rye, barley and oats) and their derivatives may not be eaten. Special supervision is mandatory for Passover production.

 For more information and details about Kosher food laws please refer to:

  • Regenstein, J.M., Chaudry, M.M. and Regenstein, C.E. (2003), The Kosher and Halal Food Laws. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 2: 111–127. doi:10.1111/j.1541-4337.2003.tb00018.x

 

Certification

   The process for preparing Kosher foods and processing equipment is complex and can be costly, requiring trained and knowledgeable professionals who can certify the products/processing plant as Kosher. Any food product (anything ingested) that is meant to be used in a Kosher home should be certified. This may include: Drugs (except those that are life-saving) and food contact ingredients in packaging materials. Normally, Kosher certification is given by Rabbis. Ideally the religious decisions are separated from the administrative and business work of providing supervision.

      Steps Involved in Kosher Certification Include: 

  1. Filling out an application to the organization on paper or on the Internet. Review of the information by the organization, especially the type of the product and its components.
  2.  Inspection and approval of the manufacturing facility. It includes review of the production equipment and physical ingredients, as well as cleaning procedures, sanitation and identifying where cross-contamination may occur.
  3. For animals, it includes the humane treatment of animals throughout raising, transporting and holding prior to slaughter.
  4. For slaughterhouses, it involves hiring specially trained religious slaughtermen (“shochtim”) and review of slaughtering areas, including restraining, method of stunning, actual slaying, pre- and post-slaying, handling, etc.
  5. Determining the cost and fees involved, and the signing of the contract.
  6. Payment of fees and expenses.
  7. Equipment Kosherization of the facility under religious supervision depending on the details of the processing, especially anything cooked or baked.
  8. Issuance of the Kosher certificate.

   

 

References

     Please click on the following link for articles on Kosher: Kosher References

     Kosher Alerts

     For up-to-date Kosher alerts:

     Or the website of the specific agency

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