“Kosher Certification – Still Somewhat a Mystery”

What does, “Kosher” produce mean anyway? The word, “Kosher” means fit. When speaking about Kosher produce (and other Kosher products), this means that the produce has met stringent accordance with Jewish Law. However, what that means is still somewhat a mystery. The opposite, non Kosher produce, means that the produce was made without supervision, improper (non-Kosher) cooking vessels or machinery. Kosher produce goes through the following basic measures and oftentimes additional measures:

  1. Preparation of produce (triple or quadruple washed)
  2. Separation of meat and dairy items that might go into pre-prepared salads
  3. Kosher ingredients and utensils/equipment
  4. Kosher Certification

When grown, produce endures very careful watchfulness, daily monitoring and an extremely cautious eye with spraying. By Kosher Law, produce needs to have zero bugs. Hence the very strict washing process. Produce that cannot be washed sufficiently cannot be eaten, or will likely not be certified as Kosher, as tiny mites or other insects can reside in the leaves or other areas of the vegetable or fruit.

Besides being insect free, some Kosher products are low spray. The reason for the ability to use low spray is that the produce is washed so many times to rid itself of bugs, that it doesn’t need some of the regularly used treatments. Many people (Kosher and non Kosher) feel it is safe to eat Kosher produce as it has no preservatives as well as no bugs.

Kosher produce tends to have a long shelf life, particularly the leafy lettuce products, because of the washing and the packaging. Oftentimes, Kosher lettuce products (romaine mixes, iceberg mixes, etc) are vacuum sealed, taking the air out of the bag, and giving the product a shelf life that extends several extra days. This can potentially be helpful for retailers (shrink and expiration challenges) and food companies who make prepared salads and for consumers keeping product at home in the fridge.

Since there are variations in Kosher certification agencies, Kosher produce certification is still a bit of a mystery and can be priced a bit higher than regular produce because of all of the steps required. That being said, you can have a high degree of confidence in the food safety of Kosher products…Just look at the success in companies like Hebrew National, Streit’s, Mother’s, and many more. In this day of multiple outbreaks of food borne illness, having this extra level of special care and watchfulness makes enormous sense. This writer truly believes that Kosher certification should have increasing appeal to vegetarians, vegans, health minded individuals, and any consumer who is vigilant about their consumption choices.

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Heidi Chapnick

Heidi Chapnick

Being passionate about ‘fresh’ food is who we are. Some of us volunteered, feeding the hungry and got interested in all the waste in this country, always wondering how to make things better for our hungry masses and keeping it, "fresh". We also feel for the growers who are scrambling to sell their products and keep them fresh and the retailers who keep us fed. Working with all channels of sales and from seedling to table, it gives us the ability to assist with making sure the integrity of fresh items remains, keeping food borne illnesses and cross contamination at bay for happy growers, shippers, retailers and shoppers.