Reliable Kosher Symbols When these are on the outside, you can trust what's inside.
The following symbols are among those that we can recommend without qualification, meaning that you can assume that we would recommend any product that is legitimately certified by one of these agencies. If a symbol does not appear here it does not mean that we would not recommend any or all of the foods certified by that agency. In fact, you will find many products in our database that bear symbols that do not appear here, or that bear no symbol at all. When you have a question about whether we would recommend any particular product, please search the database for that product. If you don’t find it in the database, you are welcome to ask us.
RELIABLE KOSHER SYMBOLS
The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations 333 Seventh Ave, New York, NY 10001 212 563-4000 Fax - 212 564-9058 Rabbi Menachem Genack, Rabbinic Administrator
The Organized Kashrus Laboratories 391 Troy Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11213 (718)756-7500 Fax - (718) 756-7503 Rabbi Don Yoel Levy, Kashrus Administrator
Star-K Kosher Certification 11 Warren Road Baltimore, MD 21208-5234 (410) 484-4110 Fax - (410) 653-9294 Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, Rabbinic Administrator
KOF-K Kosher Supervision 201 The Plaza, Teaneck, NJ 07666 (201) 837-0500 Fax - (201) 837-0126 Rabbi Ahron Felder, Director of Kosher Standards
VAAD Vaad HaKashrus of the Five Towns Rabbi Moshe Chait (516) 569-4536
Kashruth of The Central Rabbinical Congress (CRC Hisachdus), 85 Division Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211 Rabbi Yidel Gruber, Rabbi Yitzchok Glick (718) 384-6765
BAIS DIN OF CROWN HEIGHTS Rabbi Dov Ber Levertov (718) 774-7504
K’hal Adath Jeshurun (Breuer’s) 85-93 Bennet Avenue New York, NY 10033 212 923-3582 Fax - 212 781-4275 Rav Zachariah Gelley, Rav Moshe Zvi Edelstein
THE "CHOF KOSHER" Rabbi Solomon B. Shapiro (718) 263-1574
The "Sefer Torah-Kasher" The Vaad Harabbonim of Flatbush Rabbi Eli Skaist, Rabbinic Administrator (718) 951-8585
Chicago Rabbinical Council 3525 W. Peterson Avenue, Suite #315 Chicago, IL 60659 Phone: (773) 465-3900 Fax - (773) 588-2141 Rabbi Dovid Jenkins, Kashruth Administrator
Star-D 11 Warren Road Baltimore, MD 21208-5234 (410) 484-4110 Fax - (410) 653-9294 Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, Rabbinic Administrator, Rabbi Boruch Beyer
Rabbi M. Weissmandl (Rav of Nitra-Monsey)
National Kashrut 101 Route 306 Monsey, NY 10952 (914) 352-4448 Fax - (914) 356-9756 Rabbi Yacov Lipshutz, President
Vaad Hakashrus of Massachusetts 177 Tremont Street Boston, MA 02111 (617) 426-2139 Fax - (617) 426-6268 Rabbi Abraham Halfinger, Rabbinic Administrator
Kashruth Council of Toronto 4600 Bathurst Street Suite #240 North York, Ontario M2R3V2 (416) 635-9550 Fax - (416) 635-8760 Rabbi Mordechai Levin, Executive Director
Montreal Vaad Hair 6825 Decarie Blvd, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3W 3E4 (514) 739-6363, Fax: (514) 739-7024 Rabbi Peretz Jaffe Kashrut Coordinator, Rabbi Saul Emanuel Executive Director
Orthodox Rabbinical Council of British Columbia 8080 Fancis Road, Richmond, British Columbia, Canada V6Y1A4 Rabbi Levy Teitlebaum Phone: (604) 275-0042 - Fax: (604) 277-2225
THE HEART "K" Kehila Kosher Rabbi Avromon Teichman (323) 935-8383 (Los Angeles, California)
The "RCC" Community Kashrus Division of the Rabbinical Council of California Rabbi Nissim Davidi and Rabbi Avromon Union - Rabbinic Administrators Phone: (213) 489-8080; Fax: (213) 489-8077
Kosher Supervision of America P.O. Box 35721 Los Angeles, CA 90035 (310) 282-0444 Fax - (310) 282-0505 Rabbi Binyomin Lisbon, Kashrus Administrator
THE CALIFORNIA "K" Kehilla Kosher (Igud Hakashrus of Los Angeles); Rabbi Avrohom Teichman (323) 935-8383
Rabbinical Council of Orange County & Long Beach (714) 846-2285
Vaad Harabanim of Greater Seattle 5100 South Dawson Street, Suite #102 Seattle, WA 98118-2100 (206) 760-2100 Fax - (206) 760-0905 David Grashin, Administrator
Vaad Hoeir of Saint Louis 4 Millstone Campus St. Louis, MO 63146 314 569-2770 Fax - 314 569-2774 Rabbi Sholom Rivkin, Chief Rabbi
The Vaad Hakashrus of Denver 1350 Vrain Street Denver, CO 80204 (303) 595-9349 Fax - (303) 629-5159 Rabbi Y Feldberger, Rabbinic Administrator
Vaad Hakashrus of Dallas - THE "DK" 7900 Northaven Road Dallas TX 75230 (214) 750-8223 - Fax (214) 368-4709 Rabbi David Shawl, Kashrus Administrator (Formerly Dallas Kashrut Council)
The Texas K & International Kosher Supervision 351 East Price Street Suite #200 Keller TX 76248 (817) 337-4700 Phone - (817) 337-4901 Fax Rabbi Dovid Jenkins, Rabbinic Administrator
Atlanta Kashruth Commission 1855 La Vista Road Atlanta, GA 30329 404 634-4063 Fax - 404 320-7912 Rabbi Ilan Feldman, Dean
Tri-State Kashruth, Vaad Hoer of Cincinnati 6446 Stover Avenue Cincinnati, OH 45237 Phone: (513) 731-4671 Fax: (513) 531-5665 Rabbi Yacov Toron, Rabbinic Administrator
VAAD HARABONIM OF FLORIDA Orthodox Rabbinical Council of South Florida; Rabbi Growner (305) 931-6204
Orthodox Vaad of Philadelphia; 7505 Brookhaven Road, Philadelphia, PA 19151 Rabbi Aaron Felder 215-545-2968, Rabbi Shlomo Caplan 215-473-0951 and Rabbi Yehoshua Kagnaff 215-742-8521 Fax for all of them is: 215-473-6220
Rabbinic Administrator of Upper Midwest Kashrut Rabbi Asher Zeilingold (612) 690-2137 (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
The "K-COR"Vaad Harabonim of Greater Detroit and Merkaz; Rabbi Beryl Broyde, Rabbi Joseph Krupnik (810) 559-5005
The "MK" Manchester Beth Din Dayan 0. Westheim 061-740-9711
AGUDAH The Beth Din Zedek of Agudath Israel 02-385-2514
The London Beth Din Court of the Chief Rabbi Rabbi Berel Berkowitz 01-387-4300
KEDASSIA Kedassia, The Joint Kashrus Committee of England 67 Amhurst Park, London, England 44181-800-6833
Glatt Kosher – Nevei Achiezer Rav Shlomo Mahpud, (03) 769-702 Rav Baruch Roshgold, (03) 797-172
Bais Din Tzedek of the Eida Hachareidis of Jerusalem 011-972-2-251-651
BELZ The Bais Din Tzdek of K’hal Machzikei Hadas 02-2-385-832 or 02-795-414
Rabbi Moshe Y. L. Landa (/Rav of Bnei-Brak)
Rabbi Nuchem Efraim (Noam) & Teitelbaum (Volver Rav)
Rabbi Shlomo Stern (Debraciner Rav)
H.K.K. Kosher Certification Service of Hong Kong, Rabbi David Zadok Phone: (852) 2540-8661 - Fax: (852) 2549-9344 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum (Nirbater Rav) (718) 851-1221
Rabbi Zevulun Charlop (212) 960-5344
Rabbi Aharon Simkin (818) 368-2254
HISTORY OF KOSHER SUPERVISION
In the U.S.A., the kosher certifying agencies with which we are familiar did not start until the 1920’s and 1930’s, but their development can be traced back over 200 years. The need for kosher supervision in the United States dates back to Colonial times. As early as 1660, a Jew from Portugal applied for a license to sell kosher meat in New Amsterdam. The first recorded complaint was in 1771 against the Shochet Moshe. In 1774, the widow, Hetty Hays, complained that her shochet (ritual slaughterer) was selling non-kosher meat. This led to the first court license revocation against a kosher butcher in 1796.
As Jewish communities developed in the United States, they originally followed the European pattern of having community appointed shochtim. By this method, the shochet could easily be removed if he did not follow the strict guidelines set down by the community leaders. This method changed drastically in 1813, when the schochet, Avraham Jacobs, became the first independent schochet in the United States. He was followed by many more. Unfortunately, this change led to a rapid decline in the standard of kosher meat.
In 1863, a group of laymen and shochtim got together to try to form a kashrus organization that could control this situation. Regrettably, they were unsuccessful. It was not until 1897 that the shochtim themselves banded together to form a union called "Meleches Hakodesh." Their goal was to improve kashrus standards, as well as the wages of shochtim.
By 1918, kosher products started finding their way into the American market. Abraham Goldstein, a chemist, was highly instrumental in both importing these products as well as in convincing domestic companies (such as Sunshine Biscuit Co.) to become certified kosher.
In 1924, the Union of Orthodox Rabbis (O/U), which had been established in 1892, decided to enter the field of kashrus. Mr. Goldstein was appointed as its first director. During the "food revolution" of the past 50 years, as more and more products are prepared in company plants and not in private kitchens, the "O/U" has been active as a non-profit organization in the kosher certification of these products.
Mr. Goldstein continued to head the O/U from 1924 until 1935. Feeling a need for another certifying agency, he started the O/K Laboratories. Today, the O/U, headed by Rabbi Menachem Genack, and the O/K, headed by Rabbi Don Yoel Levy, reliably certify many thousands of products and ingredients that we have become accustomed to using daily. As the complexity of manufacturing processes and the need for kosher certification has increased, so has the number of agencies and individuals interested in meeting this need. This has led to the rise of newer certifying agencies, such as VHM, the Chaf K, Kehilloh, Star K and others. Furthermore, individual rabbis have entered this field, often using their own kosher symbol or even just a plain "K" to designate a product’s kosher status.
This has caused a great deal of confusion. When there were only two or three certifying agencies, it was easy for consumers to judge their reliability. But today, it may take a great deal of detective work to ascertain the standard that a particular rabbi is using. Consequently, many people prefer to rely on only the well-known certifying agencies, rather than risk the chance that a product may not meet their personal standard of kashrus.
The O/U, O/K, Star-K and Kof-K are the largest relied upon kosher agencies in the world today.
KOSHER CERTIFICATION INTRODUCTION
There was a time when a woman did all her family’s preparation in her own kitchen. Back then, it was obvious that pig’s feet were not kosher, and ice cream was. In the past few decades, however, there has been a revolution in American eating. Almost 90 percent of our food is now processed before reaching our kitchens. With synthetic meats and exotic food additives, artificial pig’s feet could be kosher, whereas the ice cream might not be.
These developments in the food industry have been paralleled by the growth of kosher certification organizations formed to assure consumers that appropriately processed foods can be bought with confidence.
As a matter of fact, it has been estimated that approximately one third of all shelf products in our supermarkets are certified kosher. This makes the kosher industry in the U.S. a 30 billion dollars a year business. Although only a relatively small amount of this is dedicated strictly toward the kosher consumer (about $2 billion), the interest in kosher food is rapidly growing. Some adhere to kosher laws from conviction, such as seventh day adventists, Muslims, and vegetarians. However most of the interest comes from people who feel that the kosher certification is their best guarantee that the products and its ingredients are being watched carefully and properly. Some large corporations have found it profitable to acquire kosher companies, such as a recent (1992) acquisition by Sara Lee of the $85 million a year Besin Corp., which produces Sinai and Best products. This trend appears to be on the rise. In the U.S. alone, there appear to be at least 5 million people who buy products based on their being kosher.
A food manufacturer obtains kosher certification usually by requesting it. The reasons for the request can vary from the company’s own desire to produce a kosher product to appeals from industrial customers or consumers. Sometimes company "A" requests supervision, and in the course of the investigation of its ingredients it becomes clear that Company "B"s products will also require certification. Some certifying organizations solicit companies. Others, such as the O/U, provide certification only upon application by a food manufacturer.
Once contact with a certifying agency is made, the detective work begins. The manufacturer must supply a complete, detailed list of every ingredient in the product, including preservatives, release agents, stabilizers or other inert ingredients. In addition, every step in the manufacturing process, every cleansing agent used on the equipment and all other products produced on the same premises require close investigation and supervision.
The certifying agency must track down each ingredient to its ultimate source. If, for instance, the ingredient is meat or a meat by-product, the item cannot be kosher unless the meat source itself is strictly kosher. Wine and wine by-products, cheese, and some dairy by-products (such as whey) present the same problem. Any oil used in the manufacture of foodstuffs has to be traced back to the oil processor. Many vegetable oils are produced in machinery that is also used to process animal fats and oils. The Federal Food and Drug Administration acknowledges that "100 percent vegetable oil" may in fact have a percentage of animal fat in some batches. In such a case, of course, the oil is not recommended.
Some ingredients with innocuous sounding names need special attention. "Natural colors" have been known to be derived from insects, "softeners" from whale oil, and "artificial flavors" from cats. Therefore, the supervising agency must conduct a complete and intense investigation into the origin of all the ingredients.
The process by which ingredients are produced must also be carefully checked. In fact, it is necessary to check the processing locations to verify that hygienic standards are not so lax as to allow insects or worms to contaminate the food product. Unfortunately, lax hygiene in food processing is more common than people wish to believe.
The results of all these investigations are forwarded to the rabbinic authority (or board) of the supervising agency. If changes in ingredients or processes are required, the manufacturer must make the changes before the agency will do further work. Once all is acceptable, the rabbinic authority will determine the amount of on-plant supervision necessary. This information is written into a contract and then sent to the manufacturer. The contract also specifies that the manufacturer agrees to make no changes of ingredients or suppliers without prior written consent of the agency. The actual on-site inspector (mashgiach) will verify that the company is complying with the contract.
Should the manufacturer cease to comply with the contract, the agency either will see that the necessary changes are made or it will revoke its certification. Because organizations like the O/U or Chaf-K have registered servicemarks, unauthorized printing of these symbols on labels is a violation of Federal law. These certifying agencies have legal redress against possible abuse by manufacturers of their symbols. Some states have laws against falsely advertising that a product is kosher. Also, when reliable certifying agencies know that a particular product will no longer be under their supervision, they will publicize that fact widely. However, these safeguards are not enforceable when only the letter K is used for kosher certification.
The cost of certification to the manufacturer is minimal. For non-profit agencies, cost depends on the amount of on-site work. Agencies making a profit might have a minimum annual charge and fees depending on the gross annual sales of the product. The individual supervisor (mashgiach) is typically paid for each visit he makes to the plant (He usually receives less per visit than an auto mechanic makes per hour). The mashgiach is paid by the certifying agency and not by the manufacturer. There is usually no increase in the price of the product due to its kosher certification, because the cost of certification is generally met by increased sales. The O/U reports that in over 45 years, fewer than 12 companies discontinued their certification programs because sales did not increase. Thus, kosher supervision benefits the manufacturer and the consumer, who can be confident that foods may be consumed without violating the kosher standards.
If this were the whole story, this chapter would not be necessary. But the fact is that standards, even of national certifying organizations, can vary significantly. Perhaps our suspicion of the legitimacy of the kosher status of some products can be illustrated most clearly with the following actual letter from a certifying rabbi to a food manufacturer. All identifying information has been deleted. The footnotes explain the problems raised by the letter.
" January __, ____
Dear Mr. ____________,
It was a pleasure to hear from you. I am happy to inform you that I certainly will grant kosher
certification to (name of product). You may identify these products with the K insignia.
1 However, I would very much wish
2 to know the names of the suppliers and the ingredients.
3 I expect to be at the ______________ plant during February,
4 and perhaps at that time the manufacturing procedure of these new products
5 could be explained to me.
6 With warm and most cordial wishes for all the best, I am.
1. The manufacturer did not need this line to have permission to print a K on the label. The K is not a copyrighted symbol nor even a certification that the product is kosher.
2. "Wish," not "need"!
3. The rabbi asks this AFTER stating that the product is kosher. Is he a prophet?
4. That is, the actual investigation of the product, the manufacturing process, and the ingredients will not be completed for a month. During that time, the manufacturer will with the rabbi’s authorization—be printing K’s on his labels, thinking that it is kosher and misleading the public into believing that the product is kosher despite the absence of evidence. Let us suppose that the rabbi were to discover that the product is absolutely not kosher. What would he do about the thousands of items on grocery shelves? Would he recall them? With what authority? Indeed, one can only wonder whether a rabbi with such lax standards ever tried to recall a product that he discovered was not kosher.
5. This statement makes it abundantly clear that the timing of the certification before the investigation cannot be explained as a carry-over from a previous year.
6. We cannot find any reason that a rabbi who has not seen the process or even come to understand it from a phone call would consent to authorize a food producer to label a product as kosher. We feel, therefore, that only someone with very low standards of kashrus would trust any certification by this rabbi.
The K symbol does not always represent this sort of laxity. In fact, there are products labeled with a plain K that are of the highest standard. A prime example of this at this time is Kraft Products. Although Rabbi Levy, from the O/K, is actually the certifier of their K, the company often only allows a plain K to be placed on the label. Unfortunately, the K represents so many things that it represents nothing. The consumer would fare better relying on the several certification emblems on our symbol chart.