A Brief Introduction to some of the Practical Aspects of the Kosher and Halal Laws for the Meat Industry
Joe M. Regenstein, Professor of Food Science
Cornell Kosher Food Initiative, Department of Food Science
112 Rice Hall, Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-5601
607-255-2109; FAX: 607-257-2871; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Muhammad Chaudry, Executive Director
Islamic Food and Nutrition Council
5901 N. Cicero Ave., Suite 309
Chicago, IL 60646
773-283-3708; FAX 773-283-3973; e-mail: email@example.com
The kosher dietary laws determine which foods are "fit or proper" for consumption by Jewish consumers who observe these laws. The laws are Biblical in origin, coming mainly from the original five books of the Holy Scriptures. Over the years, the details have been interpreted and extended by the rabbis to protect the Jewish people from violating any of the fundamental laws and to address new issues and technologies. The Jewish laws are referred to as the “halacha.”
The Muslim halal dietary laws determine which foods are acceptable to Muslims. These laws are found in the Quran. Again, Muslim leaders have interpreted these laws over the years. Islamic law is referred to as Shari’ah. It is eternal: definite and unalterable; yet it is ever fresh and resilient: applications are adjusted to different times and circumstances. For example, both the Jewish rabbis and Muslim Imans and Mullahs are currently dealing with issues related to biotechnology (see below).
Why do Jews follow the kosher dietary laws? Many explanations have been given. The following by Rabbi Grunfeld is possibly the best written explanation and probably summarizes the most widely held ideas about the subject (Grunfeld, 1972). Although this explanation is also relevant for halal, it is important to note, that unlike the kosher laws, the health aspects of eating are an important part of the halal laws. For a discussion of the kosher laws and health, please see Regenstein, 1994.
“And ye shall be men of a holy calling unto Me, and ye shall not eat any meat that is torn in the field" (Exodus XXII:30). Holiness or self-sanctification is a moral term; it is identical with...moral freedom or moral autonomy. Its aim is the complete self-mastery of man.
"To the superficial observer it seems that men who do not obey the law are freer than law-abiding men, because they can follow their own inclinations. In reality, however, such men are subject to the most cruel bondage; they are slaves of their own instincts, impulses and desires. The first step towards emancipation from the tyranny of animal inclinations in man is, therefore, a voluntary submission to the moral law. The constraint of law is the beginning of human freedom....Thus the fundamental idea of Jewish ethics, holiness, is inseparably connected with the idea of Law; and the dietary laws occupy a central position in that system of moral discipline which is the basis of all Jewish laws.
"The three strongest natural instincts in man are the impulses of food, sex, and acquisition. Judaism does not aim at the destruction of these impulses, but at their control and indeed their sanctification. It is the law which spiritualizes these instincts and transfigures them into legitimate joys of life."
The Kosher and Halal Market
The kosher market covers almost 100,000 products in the US. In dollar value about 100 billion dollars worth of products have a kosher marking on them. The actual consumers of kosher food, i.e., those who specifically look for the kosher mark, are estimated to be about 6 to 8 million Americans and they are purchasing almost 3 billion dollars worth of kosher product. Only about 1/3 of the kosher consumers are Jewish; other consumers include Muslims, Seventh Day Adventists, vegetarians, people with various types of allergy, particularly dairy, grain, and legume, and general consumers who value the quality of kosher products: "We report to a higher authority." AdWeek Magazine has called kosher "the Good Housekeeping Seal for the 90s." By undertaking kosher certification, companies can incrementally expand their market by opening up new markets.
The Muslim market in the US is just emerging. Many urban centers have special halal markets, and most Muslims observe the halal laws. But the real opportunities exist on a worldwide basis -- the number of Muslims in the world is around 1 billion people. Many countries of Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Northern Africa have predominantly Muslim populations. In many countries, halal certification is necessary for products to be permitted to be imported.
Although many Muslims purchase kosher food, these foods, as we will see below, do not always meet the needs of the Muslim consumer. In particular the use of various questionable gelatins in products produced by some kosher supervisions and the use of alcohol (many are permitted in kosher food, if properly prepared) are areas of difference.
Although limited market data is available, the most dramatic data about the impact of kosher has been provided by Coors when they went kosher. According to their market analysis, their share of market in the Philadelphia market went up 18% on going kosher. Somewhat less dramatic increases were observed in other cities in the Northeast.
The Kosher Dietary Laws
The kosher dietary laws predominantly deal with three issues, all in the animal kingdom:
- Allowed Animals.
- Prohibition of Blood.
- Prohibition of Mixing of Milk and Meat.
However, for the week of Passover (in late March or early April) restrictions on "chometz," the prohibited grains and the rabbinical extensions of this prohibition leads to a whole new set of regulations, focused in this case on the plant kingdom.
In addition there are a separate set of laws dealing with grape juice, wine, and alcohol derived from grape products. Basically, these must be handled by sabbath-observing Jews. However, if the juice is pasteurized (heated or "mevushal" in Hebrew), then this juice can be handled as an ordinary kosher ingredient.
Allowed Animals and Prohibition of Blood
Ruminants with split hoofs, the traditional domestic birds, and fish with fins and removable scales are generally permitted. Pigs, wild birds, sharks, dogfish, catfish, monkfish, and similar species along with all crustacean and molluscan shellfish are prohibited. Insects are also prohibited so that carmine and cochineal (natural red pigments) are not used in kosher products.
With specific respect to poultry, the traditional domestic birds, i.e., chicken, turkey, squab, duck, and goose are kosher. Birds in the rattrie category (ostrich, emu, and rhea) are definitely not kosher as the ostrich is specifically mentioned in the Bible (REF). However, it is not clear as to whether the animal of the Bible is the same animal we know as an ostrich today. Regardless these and most other birds are prohibited. There have been some attempts to characterize the features that make a kosher bird, but these are not widely accepted and basically one relies on “tradition.” Interestingly, domesticated turkey is considered kosher although wild turkey may not be. Part of the problem is that “hunting” is not permitted under any circumstances.
Furthermore, ruminants and fowl must be slaughtered according to Jewish law by a specially trained religious slaughterman. These animals are also subsequently inspected by the rabbis for various defects. In the US, the desire for more stringent meat inspection requirements has led to the development of a kosher meat meeting a stricter inspection requirement, mainly with respect to the lungs, referred to as "glatt (smooth) kosher." This mainly refers to red meats where lung adhesions are a problem and often make an animal not kosher (treife). In general a glatt kosher animal’s lungs have less than 3 such adhesions. As it is difficult to examine the lungs of poultry, this is not generally done. Yet, to distinguish poultry products as being produced to a sticter standard, some producers will also use the term “glatt.”
The meat and poultry must be further prepared by properly removing certain veins, arteries, prohibited fats, blood, and the sciatic nerve. In practical terms this means that only the front quarter cuts of red meat are generally used. Again, a minimal set of rules apply to poultry. To remove the blood, red meat and poultry are soaked and salted within a specified time period. Furthermore, any materials that might be derived from animal sources are generally prohibited because of the difficulty of obtaining them from kosher animals. Thus many products that might be used in the dairy industry, such as emulsifiers, stabilizers, and surfactants, particularly those that are fat-derived, need careful rabbinical supervision to assure that no animal-derived ingredients are used. Almost all such materials are also available in a kosher form derived from plant oils.
Prohibition of Mixing of Milk and Meat
"Thou shalt not seeth the kid in its mother's milk."
This passage appears three times in the Torah (the first five books of the Holy Scriptures) and is thus taken religiously as a very serious admonition. The meat side of the equation has been rabbinically extended to include poultry. The dairy side includes all milk derivatives.
To keep meat and milk separate requires that the processing and handling of all products that are kosher will fall into one of three categories:
- Meat products.
- Dairy products.
- Pareve (Parve) or neutral products.
The latter includes all products that are not classified as meat or dairy. All plant products along with eggs, fish, honey, and lac resin (shellac) are pareve. These pareve foods can be used with either meat products or dairy products, exept that fish cannot be mixed directly with meat. Once a pareve product is mixed with either meat or dairy products, they take on the status of meat or dairy, respectively.
Some kosher-observant Jews are concerned with the possible adulteration of kosher milk with the milk of other animals (e.g., mare's milk) and as such require that the milk be watched from the time of milking. This "Cholev Yisroel" milk and products derived from milk are required by some of the stricter kosher supervision agencies for all dairy ingredients, so that dairy products would have to meet these requirements.
In order to assure the complete separation of milk and meat, all equipment, utensils, etc. must be of the proper category. Thus, if plant materials (e.g., a fruit juice) is run through a dairy plant, it would become a dairy product religiously. Some kosher supervision agencies do permit such a product to be listed as "dairy equipment (D.E.)" rather than "dairy." The D.E. tells the consumer that it does not contain dairy but was made on dairy equipment (See allergy discussion below). With the D.E. listing, the consumer can use the product immediately after a meat meal, while a significant wait would be required to use a product with a dairy ingredient. In either case, the dishes would be switched from meat dishes to dairy dishes. A few products with no meat ingredients are made in a meat plant (e.g., a split pea soup), again they may be marked “meat equipment (M.E.).”
Kosher observant Jews must wait a fixed time between meat and dairy consumption. Customs vary but generally the wait after meat before consuming dairy is much longer (3 to 6 hours) than the wait from dairy to meat (0 to 1 hour). However, when a hard cheese (defined as a cheese that has been aged for over 6 months) is eaten, the wait is the same as that for meat. Thus, most companies producing cheese for the kosher market age their cheese for less than 6 months.
If one wants to make the product truly pareve, the plant can usually be made pareve by the process of equipment kosherization (see below).
During this holiday which occurs in the spring, all products made from the five prohibited grains: wheat, rye, oats, barley and spelt (Hebrew: chometz) cannot be used except for the specially supervised production of unleavened bread (Hebrew: "matzos"), that are prepared especially for the holiday. Special care is taken to assure that the matzos do not have any time to "rise." In addition, products derived from corn, rice, legumes, mustard seed, buckwheat, and some other plants (Hebrew: kitnyos) are prohibited. Thus, items like corn syrup, corn starch, etc. would be prohibited. Some rabbis, however, permit the oil from kitnyos materials. Some rabbis permit liquid kitnyos products such as corn syrup. The major source of sweetners and starches generally used for Passover production of "sweet" items is either real sugar or potato-derived products. Some potato syrup is also used. Passover is a time of large family gatherings. However because of the need for separate Passover dairy dishes, some kosher consumers may not use any dairy products. Overall, 40% of kosher sales for the traditional "kosher" companies occurs during the week of Passover.
There are three ways to make equipment kosher and/or to change its status. Which procedure is required depends on the equipment's prior production history. Note: After a plant (or a line) has been used to produce kosher pareve products, it can be switched to either kosher dairy or kosher meat without a special equipment kosherization step.
The simplest equipment kosherization occurs with equipment made of materials that can be koshered that have only been handled cold. These require a good caustic/soap cleaning. However, materials such as ceramics, rubber, earthenware, and porcelain cannot be koshered. If these materials are found in a processing plant, new materials may be required for production and switching between different status conditions will be difficult.
Most food processing equipment is usually operated at cooking temperatures, generally above 120F, which is defined rabbinically as "cooking." However, the exact temperature for "cooking" depends on the rabbi, although an agreement by the major four American kosher certifying agencies has settled on 120F as the temperature at which foods are cooked. To kosher these items which have been used with cooked product, the equipment must be thoroughly cleaned with caustic/soap. The equipment must be left idle for 24 hr and then the equipment must be flooded with boiling water (defined between 190F and 212F) in the presence of a kosher supervisor.
In the case of ovens or other equipment that uses "fire," kosherization involves heating the metal until it glows. Again, the rabbi will generally be present while this process is taking place.
The procedures that must be followed for equipment kosherization can be quite extensive, so that the fewer status conversion, the better. Careful formulatiing of products and good production planning can minimize the inconvenience.
Depending on what is being cooked, it may be necessary for the rabbi to "do" the cooking. In practical terms this is often accomplished by having a rabbi light the pilot light, which is then left on continuously.
In the case of cheese making, a similar concept usually requires the rabbi to add the coagulating agent into the vat. However, if the ingredients used during cheese making are all kosher, but a rabbi has not added the coagulant; then the whey derived from such cheese (as long as the curds and whey have not been heated above 120F before the whey is drained off) would be considered kosher. Thus, there is much more kosher whey available than kosher cheese.
Dealing with Kosher and Halal Supervision Agencies
Kosher or halal supervision is taken on by a company in order to expand its market opportunities. It is a business investment -- which, like any other investment, should be examined critically. In the era of Total Quality Management, Just-in-Time Production, Strategic Suppliers, etc., it is appropriate for companies to look carefully at how they handle their kosher and halal supervision needs.
Price alone may not be the best criterion for selecting a supervision agency. The agency's name recognition may also not be the most important company consideration. Other important considerations should include: 1) how responsive is the agency to the company, both in terms of paperwork handling and in terms of providing rabbis or Muslim inspectors at the plants as needed, 2) how willing are they to work with the company on problem solving, 3) how willing are they to explain their kosher or halal standards and their fee structure, 4) is the "personal" chemistry right, i.e., are you comfortable with them, and finally 4) what are their religious standards, i.e., do they meet the company's needs in the marketplace.
One of the hardest issues for the food industry to deal with in day-to-day kosher activities is the existence of so many different kosher supervision agencies. Unfortunately, though fewer agencies exist, halal also has various agencies with different standards. How does this impact the food companies? How do the Jewish kosher or Muslim halal consumers perceive these different groups? How do groups beyond the immediate community feel about the different agencies? Because there has not been a central authority for many years in either religion, different rabbis and imans/mullals follow different traditions with respect to their dietary standards. Some authorities tend to follow the more lenient standards, while others follow more stringent standards. Given the availability of choices, the trend in the mainstream kosher community today is towards a more stringent standard. The Muslim community also seems to be moving towards tighter standards.
One can generally divide the kosher supervision agencies into three broad categories. First there are the large organizations that dominate the supervision of larger food companies, i.e, the OU, the OK, the Star-K, and the Kof-K. All four of them are nationwide and "mainstream." Two of these, the OU and the Star-K are communal organizations, i.e., they are part of a larger community religious organization. This provides them with a wide base of support, but also means the organizations are potentially subject to the other priorities and needs of the organization. On the other hand, the Kof-K and the OK are private companies. Their only function is to provide kosher supervision. In addition to these national companies, there are smaller private organizations and many local community organizations that provide equivalent religious standards of supervision. As such, products accepted by any of these mainstream organizations will be accepted by all other similar organizations. The local organizations may have a bigger stake in the local community. They may be more accessible and easier to work with. Although often having less technical expertise, they may be backed up by one of the national organizations. For a company marketing nationally, a limitation may be whether the consumer elsewhere in the US knows and recognizes their kosher symbol. With the advent of KASHRUS magazine, and its yearly review of symbols, this has become somewhat less of a problem. (KASHRUS magazine does not try to "evaluate" the standards of the various kosher supervision agencies, but simply "reports" of their existence. It is the responsibility of the local congregational rabbi to inform his congregation of his standards. If he does not know enough about the "far-away" organization, he may be uncomfortable recommending it.)
The second category of kosher supervision includes individual rabbis, generally associated with the "Hassidic" communities. These are often affiliated with the ultra-orthodox communities of Williamsburg and Borough Park in Brooklyn, Monsey, NY and Lakewood, NJ. There are special food brands that cater to their needs. Many more products used in these communities require continuous rabbinical supervision rather than the occasional supervision used by the mainstream organizations. The symbols of the kosher supervisory agencies representing these consumers are not as widely recognized as those of the major mainstream agencies in the kosher world beyond these communities. The rabbis will often do special supervisions of products using a facility that is normally under mainstream supervision, often without any changes, but sometimes with special needs for their custom production.
The third level are individual rabbis who are more "lenient" than the mainstream standard. Many of these rabbis are Orthodox; some may be Conservative. Their standards are based on their interpretation of the kosher laws. The more lenient such a rabbi, the more the food processor cuts out the "mainstream" and stricter markets -- but that is a retail marketing decision the company needs to make for itself.
The Muslim community has only one mainstream agency at this time, the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council. Other groups are entering the field, but their standards are not as well defined.
However, ingredient companies, should try to use a "mainstream" kosher or halal supervision agency. To sell ingredients to most kosher food producing companies will require such supervision. The ability to sell to as many customers as possible requires a broadly acceptable standard. Unless an ingredient is acceptable to the mainstream, it is almost impossible to gain the benefit of having a kosher ingredient. In a few circumstances, if the company makes a product that would not be acceptable to the mainstream kosher supervision agencies no matter what the company does, then the company might as well use one of the more "lenient" kosher supervision agencies willing to recognize that ingredient.
In the future companies will have to pay attention to halal standards. In many cases a few changes will permit kosher products to also serve the halal community, i.e., the true absence of animal products (see below for a few kosher exceptions) and care to assure that any residual alcohol in products is below 0.1%. Again a standard acceptable in all or most Muslim countries is desirable.
When looking for a religious supervision agency, one must determine the company's priorities and attempt to find a religious supervision agency that is compatible with these requirements. Like any purchasing decision, time spent in qualifying the vendor before purchasing is usually rewarded.
With respect to interchangeability between kosher supervision agencies a system of certification letters is used to provide information from the certifying rabbi to others about the products he has approved. The supervising rabbi certifies that a particular plant produces kosher products, or that only products with certain labels or certain codes are kosher under his supervision. Such letters should be renewed every year and should be dated with both a starting and ending date. These letters are the mainstay of how companies establish the kosher status of ingredients as ingredients move in commerce. Consumers may also ask to see such letters. Obviously a kosher supervision agency will only "accept" letters from agencies they consider acceptable.
In addition, the kosher or halal symbol of the certifying agency or individual doing the certification may appear on the packaging. (In some industrial situations, where kosher and non-kosher products are similar, some sort of color coding of products may also be used.) Most of these symbols are "trademarks" that are duly registered. However, in a few cases, the trademark is not registered and more than one rabbi has been known to use the same kosher symbol.
With respect to kosher and halal markings on products, three issues need to be highlighted:
- It is the responsibility of the food company to show its labels to its certifying agency prior to printing labels to ensure the label is marked correctly. This responsibility includes both the agency symbol and the documentation establishing its kosher status, e.g., dairy or pareve for most dairy plant items. Many agencies currently do not require that "pareve" be marked on products; others do not use the "dairy" marking. The kosher supervision agencies, the food companies, and the consumer would be better served if all kosher products had their status marked. In addition to providing the proper information, it would challenge everyone to pay more attention to properly marking products, avoiding the many recalls/announcements of mismarked products.
- The labels for private label products with specific agency symbols on their labels cannot be moved easily between plants. This is why some companies, both private label and others, use the generic "K." Thus, if the kosher supervision agency changes, the label can still be used. The sophisticated kosher consumer, however, is more and more uncomfortable with this symbol and questions will be asked. By paying for a "good" symbol and then only using the "K," a company dilutes the value of its investment in kosher certification. In particular, if a company uses the "K," the customer service and sales departments, and those people representing the company at trade shows need to know who the certifying rabbi is.
So far the halal community has not gone to a generic halal marking in this country, although this does seem to be used in some other countries.
Important in many food products, gelatin is probably the most controversial of all modern kosher and halal ingredients. Gelatin can be derived from pork skin, beef bones, or beef skin. In recent years, some fish gelatins have also appeared. The first author is currently involved in research in this area. As a food ingredient, fish gelatin has many similarities to beef and pork gelatin, i.e., it can have a similar range of bloom strengths and viscosities. However, depending on the species from which the fish skins were obtained, its melting point can vary over a much wider range of melting points than beef or pork gelatin. This may offer some unique opportunities to the food industry, especially for ice cream, yogurt, desert gels, confections, and imitation margarine. These gelatins would be fully kosher and halal, and acceptable to almost all of the mainstream religious supervision organizations.
Currently available gelatins -- even if called "kosher" -- are not acceptable to the mainstream kosher supervision organizations. Many are, in fact, totally unacceptable to halal consumers because they may be pork gelatin-based. However, a recent production of gelatin from the hides of kosher slaughtered cattle has been available in limited supply at great expense, and this has been accepted by the mainstream and even some of the stricter kosher standards.
Among the lenient kosher supervision agencies, one finds a wide range of attitudes towards gelatin. The most liberal view holds that gelatin, being made from bones and skin, is not being made from a food (flesh). Further, the process used to make the product goes through a stage where the product is so "unfit" that it is not edible by man nor dog and as such becomes a new entity. Rabbis holding this view even accept pork gelatin. Most gelatin desserts with a generic "K" follow this ruling.
Other rabbis only permit gelatin from beef bones and hides and not pork. Other rabbis will only accept "India dry bones" as a source of beef gelatin. These bones, found naturally in India (because of the Hindu custom of not using cattle) are aged for over a year and are "dry as wood"; additional religious laws exist for permitting these materials. However, to repeat, none of these products are accepted by the "mainstream" kosher or halal supervisions and thus products with these gelatins are not accepted by a significant part of the kosher and halal community.
Rabbis, imams, and mullahs currently accept products made by simple genetic engineering, e.g., chymosin (rennin) was accepted by the rabbis about a half year before it was accepted by the FDA! The production conditions in the fermentors must still be kosher or halal, i.e., the ingredients and the fermentor and any subsequent processing must use kosher or halal equipment and ingredients of the appropriate status. A product produced in a dairy medium would be dairy. We believe that the rabbis may soon approve porcine lipase made through biotechnology, if all the other conditions are kosher, but the Muslim community is still considering this issue and a final ruling has not been established. (Any product produced by cattle by excretion in the milk would be dairy!) The religious leaders of both communities have not yet determined the status of more complex genetic manipulations.
Federal and State Regulations
Making a claim of kosher on a product is a "legal" claim. 21CFR101.29 has a paragraph indicating that such a claim must be appropriate and approximately 20 states, some counties, and some cities have laws specifically regulating the claim of "kosher." Many of these laws refer to "Orthodox Hebrew Practice" or some variant of this term and their legality in the 1990s is subject to further court interpretation. (Note recent court rulings in New Jersey and Baltimore.)
New York State probably has the most extensive set of kosher laws, including a requirement to register kosher products with the Kosher Enforcement Bureau of the Department of Agriculture and Markets (55 Hanson Pl, Brooklyn, NY 11217). However, the laws in New Jersey -- having been written after the state's original laws were declared unconstitutional by the state supreme court -- probably have the clearest focus and, it is hoped, no Constitutional issue. They focus specifically on "consumer right to know issues" and "truth in labeling." They avoid having the state of New Jersey define kosher. Rather the rabbis providing supervision declare the information that consumers need to make an informed decision. We hope that a similar approach will be adopted by the other states, particularly New York State and that all of the states will extend the same protection to food products produced with halal certification.
Kosher and Allergies
Although it is helpful for many consumers to use the kosher markings as a guideline for determining whether products might meet their special needs, there are also limitations that the particularly sensitive consumer needs to be aware of.
With respect to all kosher products, two important limitations need to be recognized:
- A process of equipment kosherization is used to convert equipment from one status to another. This is a well defined religious procedure, but may not lead to 100% removal of previous materials run on the equipment.
- Kosher law does permit certain ex-post-facto (after the fact) errors to be negated. Thus, trace amounts (less than 1/60 by volume under very specific conditions) can be nullified. Many kosher supervision agencies in deference to the companies desire to minimize negative publicity do NOT announce when they have used this procedure to make a product acceptable.
Products that one might expect to be made in a dairy plant, e.g., pareve substitutes for dairy products and some other liquids like teas and fruit juices may be produced in plants that have been kosherized, but may not meet a very critical allergy standard. Another product that can be problematic is chocolate: many plants make both milk chocolate and pareve chocolate. Getting every last trace of dairy out of the pareve chocolate can be difficult.
Dairy and Meat Equipment: The product was produced on a dairy or meat line, without any equipment kosherization. However, there are no intentionally added dairy or meat ingredients. The product is considered pareve with some use restrictions in a kosher home.
Fish: In a few instances where pareve or dairy products contain small amounts of fish (e.g., anchovies in Worcestershire sauce), this ingredient MAY be marked as part of the kosher supervision symbol. Many certifications will not specifically mark this.
For Passover, there is some dispute about "derivatives" of both chometz and kitnyos materials and a few rabbis permit items like corn syrup, soybean oil, peanut oil, and similarly derived materials from these extensions. In general, "proteinaeous" part of these materials are not used. Thus, people with allergies to these items could purchase these special Passover products from supervision agencies that do NOT permit "kitnyos" derivatives. With respect to "equipment kosherization": supervising rabbis tend to be very strict about the clean-up of the prohibited grains (wheat, rye, oats, barley, and spelt) so these should come closest to meeting potential allergy concerns, but may not be as critical with respect to the extended prohibition.
Consumers should not assume that kosher markings ensure the absence of trace amounts of the ingredient to which they are allergic.
How thorough can the dairy line be blocked out? The cleaning probably should go beyond any interlock that exists to lock out the incoming dairy proteins to assure that cross-contamination does not occur. Currently what is acceptable for kosher may not meet the needs of allergic consumers. Is the dairy powder dust in the air sufficient to cause problems? A company might want to consider putting a special marking on kosher pareve chocolates produced on lines that also produce dairy products to indicate that these are religiously pareve, but not sufficiently devoid of dairy allergens for very allergic consumers. Furthermore, they may also want to consider checking the chocolate using one of the modern antibody or similar types of tests. For example, regular M&Ms are marked as containing "peanuts" in order to alert people who are very allergic to peanuts, even though the product does not contain peanuts, because common equipment (although cleaned between product runs) is used for both products.
This section will simply highlight some differences when animals are slaughtered for kosher or halal use.
Animals for kosher slaughter, like regular animals, may either be raised on contract -- so that the slaughtering company controls the supply, or may be purchased on the open market, in which case the company does not control the stock prior to processing.
If the company is in control of the live animals, two issues are important. The first is the issue of injections. The animals may receive injections but they must be done in such a way as not to be classified rabbinically as a “puncture” that would prevent the animal from surviving for a year. (These standards are rabbinical and should not be thought of in terms of modern scientific discussions.) Of particular concern are injections to the neck region, such as may be used for hormone treatments. Thus, although not religiously required, many of the kosher producers tend not to use hormones or antibiotics requiring shots.
A second issue with the live animal is the feed -- interestingly, the two issues that are of concern are feeds that contain milk and meat -- but not those with non-kosher ingredients, and those concerning “baked” chometz. In the latter case, the issue is the processing of poultry during the 4 (at most) intermediate days of Passover.
The shochet, using a very sharp knife, called a “chalef” to sever the windpipe, the jugulars, and the carotids. The shochet then inspects the animals to check that the cut was made properly and checks his knife to make sure it is still sharp, if not the animal will be rejected. Generally, the shochets work for one hour and then are off for one hour. Prior to “shechting,” the shochet will say a prayer asking for forgiveness. In order to be a shochet, the man must be a pious, observant Jew and must past a test on both his religious knowledge about the requirements for shechting and on his practical ability to carry out the job correctly. The work of the individual shochets is not monitored, so that there is no pressure on the shochet to keep a specific pace.
At some point, either immediately before or after USDA inspection, the bodek (internal organ inspectors) will thoroughly examine all parts of the animal. The bodek looks particularly closely at the lungs.
In order to run a kosher plant, additional kosher supervisers are needed to oversea the complexities of maintaining a kosher plant. In addition, because plants may be isolated, provisions for housing, feeding (strictly kosher!) and providing for the religious personnel’s relgious needs (e.g., prayers three times a day) must be met, generally on site. Scheduling of the plant must be done so as to permit religious personnel to return to their home city in time for the Sabbath (every Friday) and for other religious holidays. Obviously kosher operations will not occur on Jewish religious holidays.
References and Additional Readings
Chaudry, M.M. 1992. Islamic Food Laws: Philosophical Basis and Practical Implications. Food Technol. 46(10):92.
Chaudry, M.M. and J.M. Regenstein. 1994. Implications of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering for Kosher and Halal Foods. Trends Food Sci. Technol. 5:165-168.
Grunfeld, I. 1972. The Jewish Dietary Laws. p. 11-12. The Soncino Press. London.
Ratzersdorfer, M., J.M. Regenstein, and L.M. Letson. 19XX. Appendix 5: Poultry Plant Visits, in A Shopping Guide for the Kosher Consumer, J.M. Regenstein, C.E. Regenstein, and L.M. Letson (eds.) for Governor Cuomo, Governor, State of New York.
Regenstein, J.M. 1994. Health Aspects of Kosher Foods. Activities Report and Minutes of Work Groups & Sub-Work Groups of the R & D Associates. 46(1):77-83.
Regenstein, J.M. and C.E. Regenstein. 1979. An Introduction to the Kosher (Dietary) Laws for Food Scientists and Food Processors. Food Technol. 33(1):89‑99.
Regenstein, J.M. and C.E. Regenste in. 1988. The Kosher Dietary Laws and their Implementation in the Food Industry. Food Technol., 42(6):86+88-94.