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FAQ – Kosher Certification

Frequently Asked Questions – Kosher Certification

Does “kosher” mean better quality?

Food that is certified kosher does not necessarily mean it’s going to taste better. Kosher means separated for holiness. The Torah equates kosher eating with being holy. The basis for this can be found in the Book of Exodus when God commands: “And you shall be holy people unto Me; therefore you shall not eat any flesh that is torn of beasts in the field.” Jewish people are commanded to only use foods that the Torah has declared kosher, to prepare them according to the way the Torah permits, and to keep them separate from non-kosher foods.


Does the rabbi bless the food to make it kosher?

There is no blessing a rabbi (or any human) can say to make food kosher. Kosher food is defined in the Torah. Animals have to be slaughtered in a certain way to make their meat kosher. The role of the kosher supervisor is to ensure that the food is kosher and remains so. Jewish people do say a blessing before they eat and at the conclusion of the meal.


Why do Jewish people keep kosher?

Not all Jewish people observe the kosher laws. There are also levels of observance among Jewish people from different cultural backgrounds, geographic locations, and religious denominations. Similarly, Jewish people may cite different reasons why they keep kosher. Generally, Jewish people observe kosher laws because these laws have the weight of biblical commandments from God. Some Jewish people may observe these laws because it is part of their heritage, or due to communal or familial expectations.


Do only Jewish people keep kosher?

Studies have shown that 80% of kosher consumers are not Jewish. People purchase kosher food for health, lifestyle, and dietary reasons. Some people may only purchase kosher food because someone they live with is kosher observant, or because they want kosher observant friends and relatives to feel comfortable eating in their home.


Are Orthodox rabbis the only ones who can certify foods as kosher?

Orthodox rabbis have long had a monopoly on the certification and supervision of kosher food, however, this is no longer the case. Throughout the United States, rabbis of other religious denominations are certifying kosher food products, stores, and restaurants at a growing rate. The largest kosher certification company remains the Union of Orthodox Rabbis, but there is much competition in the kosher certification world. In 2008, Rabbi Jason Miller founded the Kosher Michigan certification agency and it has grown in the ensuing years throughout North America and into India and the Middle East. As an ordained Conservative rabbi, Miller maintains that the Orthodox establishment of Judaism does not have a right to a monopoly on kosher certification. Kosher certification should be trusted and determined on a case by case basis, not simply by identification in any one denomination of Judaism.


Why are there so many kosher symbols?

A kosher symbol on a food product (or other kitchen and household products) indicates that the product is certified as kosher by an agency. The symbol indicates which agency certifies the product. Throughout the world, there are hundreds of kosher certification companies, and thus, hundreds of symbols. To know which symbols to trust for your community, contact your local rabbinic authority.


Why are Jewish people not permitted to mix dairy and meat products?

Meat (the flesh of birds and mammals) cannot be eaten with dairy products based on the biblical pronouncement not to cook a calf in its mother’s milk.


It is permissible to eat soy products that look like non-kosher food, such as fake pepperoni? It is permissible to eat cheese on a veggie burger? Or faux meat (soy) with cheese?

Soy is pareve (neither meat nor dairy) and can be used to create food items that resemble non-kosher products in both sight and taste. Some kosher observers are uncomfortable eating a piece of pizza that has pepperoni-looking soy as a topping. Similarly, some find it distasteful to put cheese on a veggie (soy) burger or fake cheese on real meat. Further, some believe that this is a case of marit ayin (appearance of impropriety), as the casual observer may suspect these dishes are not kosher. Others find this to be innovative and are comfortable with it. Several years ago, when margarine was introduced to the marketplace, many kosher observant Jews would only put it on the table when a meat meal was being served if it was wrapped in its packaging displaying the label, lest anyone think it was butter. Ultimately, this is a matter of taste.


How does a kitchen become kosher?

A kitchen (residential and industrial) that is not kosher can become kosher through the process of kashering. Ovens, stovetops, microwaves, sinks, vessels (pots and pans), silverware, and nonporous counters are all made kosher through specific techniques including cleaning, boiling water, heating (with ovens and blow torches). Kosher Michigan is available to kasher residential kitchens and for guidance on making your home kosher.


Do all products require kosher certification?

There are some products that do not require kosher certification if they do not have additives, and, if food items, are not a product of Israel. These include, but are not limited to, plain applesauce, baking soda, coffee, beer, cornmeal, corn starch, pure honey, molasses, plain canned vegetables, raw grains, raw peas, salt, sugar, and tea.