||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
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
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
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
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
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,
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,
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.