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Mini Kashrus Course




Mini Course in Kashrus & The Basic Laws of Kashrus:

The Torah states regarding kosher animals, "Among the animals you may eat, any one that has both cloven hoofs and that chew its cud". The Torah identifies and enumerates the animals that are kosher. The animal must have both characteristics Chew its cud & split hooves; the camel, pig & rabbit only have one so they are not kosher. The Torah states further regarding kosher fowl " These are the flying animals that you must avoid. Since they are to be avoided, do not eat any of the following, etc." Therefore only those that through the generations have been traditionally accepted as a kosher species may be eaten. The Torah states regarding kosher fish and marine life "This is what you may eat in the water, whatever has fins and scales." Not all parts of a kosher animal or fowl are traditionally eaten, & not all types of scales are acceptable as kosher, as will be addressed later on.

What does the concept "Kosher food" denote? "That which is usable, suited for use or permitted as food pursuant to the Jewish Dietary Laws." The antonym is "Treif". The Torah addresses the principal laws of what a Jewish individual may or may not consume. The Shulchan Oruch by Rabbi Joseph Karo and commentators codifies the laws of Kashrus. There are also responsa from the leading Rabbis of that period over the generations that has clarified or addressed many issues pertaining to Kashrus. In our times most of the food products consumed are manufactured in facilities located any place in the world. What does a food manufacturing facility have to know basically in order to qualify for manufacturing kosher food?

The same kosher laws apply to foods made at home and to those manufactured in a facility.

Briefly stated, the policy and obligations of food processors vis a vis kosher food production, are as follows:

In general, products are eligible for kosher certification if they meet the following criteria:

1) Active and inert ingredients are free of:

a) Meat, meat fat, meat by-products of animal, fowl, mammal, reptile, amphibians, insects or worms, and b) Fish not bearing scales, or their derivatives.

c) Milk, milk by-products or derivatives.

d) Wine, wine by-products or derivatives.

Processed in equipment, which has not processed any of the above-enumerated products.

And be free of any ingredient that fails to comply with above criteria.

Some examples of non-kosher foods are: ova eggs, gelatin, shellfish, cognac, brandy, bread baked in pans greased in fat.

2) Meat, fowl or their by-products, as well as milk and milk by-products are kosher when prepared in a rigorously supervised manner, in accordance with the kosher laws and attested to by a knowledgeable orthodox Rabbi. Not all animals or fowl are kosher even when prepared in a kosher manner. The Torah designates as kosher only those animals that have cloven hoofs and chew their cud, and certain fowl. However, in order for this meat to be kosher for consumption, they must be slaughtered in accordance with the Jewish ritual, by an ordained, trained shochet (ritual slaughterer). The meat must also go through a process of purging the forbidden fats and blood veins. The meat must also go through a salting or broiling process, which must be in accordance with the method prescribed by Jewish law. Due to the difficulties involved with purging the forbidden fats from the back half of the animal it is customary not to use any part of the back half of an animal. Meat must be purchased only from a kosher butcher who is under the supervision of a qualified rabbinical authority. The heart among some other parts of meat and fowl are customarily not eaten.

3) Only fish that have fins and scales are kosher. Not all types of scales are considered as kosher scales.

4) The eating or cooking in any form or manner of meat and milk together is prohibited. Meat and milk derivatives are considered the same as their meat and milk origin. A kosher consumer, as well as food manufacturers and processors must have separate sets of utensils and dishes for dairy and meat. The meat and dairy utensils must be washed separately.

5) Equipment used to process or produce non-kosher products cannot be used to process kosher products, unless it is subjected to a kosherizing / sterilization process under the supervision of a qualified trained rabbi.

6) All unadulterated and unprocessed produce, such as fruits, vegetables, grain, minerals-all things that grow from the soil, vines or trees-are inherently kosher.

Antibiotics and hormones may affect the kosher status of fowl. It is common procedure to vaccinate fowl by injection. The fowl is vaccinated on day one and a number of times thereafter. The place of injection for the first vaccination is in the neck area. The needle used for the vaccination is very small, yet it may come in contact with the esophagus and render the bird a treifa. Some of the injections are given in the leg area, which may damage the leg tendons, which will also render the bird a treife. Leg tendon lesions (rupture and hemorrhaging) are common because of viral arthritis. In Eretz Yisroel is common procedure by the Mehadrin Shechitos to check the leg tendons for rupture and hemorrhaging. The Mehadrin Shechitos in Eretz Yisroel also have supervision on the vaccinations that they should be injected only in an area that will not render the bird a treife. The common age of chickens by shechita is six to eight weeks old. In order to have a chicken fully-grown and mature they will use growth hormones. Growth hormones also retain water in the chicken.

The vaccinations and growth hormones cause common health problems to the fowl such as leukosis, leg tendon problems, low resistance to disease and Chronic Respiratory Diseases. The respiratory disease does affect the kosher status of the lungs and would require a careful checking of the lungs. Some (but not all) of the vaccinations are sometimes given in the drinking water or by a spray in the air.

There is a breed of chickens bred in Israel over the last 50 years, which does not require any vaccinations or growth hormones. The breeder claims that the breed does not have any problems with the tendons nor with the lungs. As far as we know there is no rabbinical authority certifying the breed that it was bred only with birds that were traditionally accepted as kosher birds?

7) All manufactured products, which may contain any ingredients derived from doubtful origins, must be checked by a qualified rabbinical authority as to whether the Dietary Laws were not violated during their preparation.

8) A neutral group of foods, which is neither of milk or meat derivation, like eggs, fruits, vegetables, cereals and fish are known as "pareve." All of the above mentioned, except for fish, may be prepared with milchig (milk) or fleishig (meat), after which they cease to remain pareve. Pareve things also become either milchig or fleishig. According to the utensils used for their preparation.

9) Kosher fish is pareve & can be prepared for both milchig & fleishig use. While we are allowed to eat fish during a meat meal, it is forbidden to cook or serve both together. Worcestershire sauce containing anchovies may not be used with meat. Fish must be served on separate dishes.

Certification of new products: When a new product is still in the concept stage, the marketing department makes a decision whether it should be a kosher product. If the decision is to make it a kosher product, the product development personnel prepare a complete ingredient specification and process sheet. Before labels for the product are approved, (in which a kashrus symbol would be incorporated), an orthodox certifier would be contacted. The proposed kosher certifier should ask for and receive the complete formula, the source and nature of the ingredients, and the location and nature of the processing equipment. The kosher certifier will also decide how many kosher supervisors will have to be present during production. After all of the above meet with his approval, permission is granted to use the kashrus symbol on the label of the package.

Kosher Supervision (All year): In order to claim a product is kosher (by a designation on the packaging, or otherwise), there must be a certification, by an orthodox rabbi, that the kosher requirements have been met. This is usually accomplished through a contract with a knowledgeable rabbi or a kosher certifying agency who, through their regular inspection of the plant and food production facilities and a detailed knowledge of all the formulas, various ingredients and their originating source, certify the

products as kosher. Inert as well as active ingredients must be of kosher origin and processed on kosher equipment as well. Inert ingredients are defined as emulsifying agents, binders, flavorings, dispersing agents, buffer substances, preservatives, colorings, dilutants, coatings, lubricants, fillers, etc.

During the canning season or production schedule the supervising rabbi will visit every cannery and every refinery several times during the season. In the course of these inspections the rabbi may review or ask questions about the process or any changes that he observes. The rabbi will also ask about ingredients, labels and any other aspect taking place in this production facility or any co-Pak that is being done by them or for them. The rabbi will also visit Corporate headquarters where he will consult with the corporate staff on any new products, suppliers or new formulas which are being considered, and of course any kashrus issues. A food production facility, which processes kosher and non-kosher products in equipment adjacent or in close proximity to each other, may require a full time Mashgiach (kosher knowledgeable supervisor). There must be a reliable method of assuring that the food or ingredient produced at the facility did not become contaminated with any non-kosher ingredient or equipment.

Kosher Equipment: In general, equipment which has never been used to process meat, meat by products, mammal by products etc. is acceptable to process kosher products. Hence a cannery, refinery or other manufacturing facility that has never processed any meat, wine or mammal by products may produce kosher products. Care must be taken, however, to maintain the kosher status of a plant by avoiding the introduction of any animal derivative (e.g. emulsifiers) into the system. Once such contamination has taken place, a knowledgeable expert in kosher sterilization must sterilize the affected equipment. The process may turn into an expensive project, the down time, labor to clean the equipment, the supervision of the sterilization etc. The above precautions must also be taken with tanks, tank cars, tank-wagons, boat vessels, etc.

Passover Supervision: The Pesach season brings with it all of the above Dietary laws, plus the additional Passover rules. To qualify for a product to be kosher for Passover it must, in addition, be free of the following grain products; by-products or derivatives or equipment used of the following grains; Wheat - all classes, Barley, Spelt, Rye, Oats, Legumes & rice or any derivative of theirs. Note: Legumes - include Soybeans, Lechitin, Peas, Beans, Corn syrup etc. (Some of the Sephardik origin do use rice, & or legumes on Passover). Any equipment used for any of the above product would have to go through a sterilization process before it can be used for a Passover production. The sterilization must be done under the guidance and rules of a knowledgeable expert in the sterilization of this type of equipment.