This guide is intended for company executives and managers who seek to understand basic and critical information relevant to the Kosher certification of their products.
In order to make a Kosher certified product it seems logical that one would need the component ingredients of that product to be approved as Kosher and in fact one does. So one step in the Kosher certification process, arguably the most fundamental, is to have your company’s ingredients reviewed and approved as Kosher by a Kosher certification agency.
Some of these ingredients often fall under the category of GRAK (Generally Recognized as Kosher) or Group 1 in Kosher industry jargon and as a result these ingredients do not require Kosher documentation in the form of a Kosher certificate from the Supplier. Examples of such ingredients that have GRAK status would be: eggs, salt, flour, water, most but not all fresh fruits and vegetables, raw nuts, seeds, grains, legumes and many others. These ingredients are often Kosher certified nonetheless as many food and beverage manufacturers have simplified their Kosher certification process by requiring that all their ingredients be Kosher certified. Thus avoiding the issue of having to differentiate, which ingredients require and which do not require kosher documentation. The reason for this streamlining is that the person involved in purchasing within any given company is unlikely to be a specialist in regards to discerning which products do and do not require Kosher certification and documentation and mistakes are time consuming and sometimes costly to correct.
Many ingredients generally do require Kosher documentation in the form of a Kosher certificate from the Supplier- each company’s ingredients will vary as to what percentage require kosher documentation and what percentage do not require. Thus, a fundamental part of the Kosher certification process is to gather these Kosher certificates from the company’s suppliers which should be current and to provide some basic information to the Kosher certification organization you are working with. Such information would include: the name of the Ingredient, the name of the Supplier, the name of the Kosher certification agency providing Kosher certification and the date of expiration for that specific Kosher certificate. All this information is placed on an Excel sheet which in Kosher certification jargon is called a “Schedule A”.
The Company is responsible on an ongoing basis to insure that their ingredients maintain their Kosher status. They must obtain current Kosher certificates when their supplier’s Kosher certificates expire. If a Supplier does not retain their Kosher certification status the Company will be required to find an alternative Supplier in a situation where the Ingredient is not GRAK (Generally Recognized as Kosher).
One thing to bear in mind is that not all Kosher certificates emanating from varying Kosher certification agency’s are equally accepted. A result of this is that your Kosher certification agency in the process of your company applying for Kosher certification may reject a specific Kosher certificate from the Kosher certification agency that provides the Kosher certification for that Ingredient. The Kosher certification agency will require that you obtain the ingredient in question from a different Supplier that enjoys the Kosher certification of a more accepted Kosher certification agency. Alternatively, they may require your company or the supplier to pay for their ability to self-verify the Kosher status of the ingredient(s) in question. Kosher certification agencies have no interest in making the Kosher certification process more costly, time consuming or stressful. They do feel an obligation however to maintain their standards and reputation and they are unlikely to compromise if this issue presents itself.
Why are some Kosher certification agency’s rejected by others? The simple answer to this question is that unlike Organic certification there is no Federal or International regulation or uniform standards regarding Kosher certification. While there is much consensus there are also some significant disagreements. Often those who follow the consensus will reject the Kosher certification of those Kosher certification agencies who flout it. In addition, in every field there is a range of competency and the field of Kosher certification is no different. Depending on what type of ingredients you are utilizing this issue can have more or less relevance. If you are dealing with: Flavors, Cheese, Oils, Gelatin and a host of other ingredients this can be a real issue. As well if you source ingredients from India, China or Germany this can be an issue.
It would be advisable to verify as early as possible in the Kosher certification process that your ingredients can be approved as Kosher. One way of doing this is having a Kosher certification agency conduct a review of your ingredients and inform you which are GRAK (Generally Recognized as Kosher) and in no need of Kosher documentation (or where a sub-standard agency’s Kosher certificate can be accepted as its not effectively necessary) and which ingredients do require bona-fide Kosher documentation and whether the specific Kosher certification agency certifying the specific Supplier is accepted on a national and international basis. EarthKosher can provide such a review for your company with no cost or obligation and we do so regularly for companies seeking a globally accepted Kosher certification.
Some companies are understandably very protective of their Ingredients as well as their Suppliers. While it is not possible to obtain kosher certification without the Kosher certification agency being informed as to what the ingredients are there are methods by which a Kosher certification agency can assuage a company’s understandable concerns. The Kosher certification agency can sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement and there are at times other methods that can be employed on a case by case basis.
Regarding the identity of an Ingredients Supplier if the Ingredient actually requires Kosher documentation than the Kosher certification agency will require knowledge of the Supplier. The reason being is that the function of the Kosher certification agency is to insure that the Ingredient that is Kosher certified by the reputable and recognized Kosher certification agency from the specific Supplier is indeed the very Ingredient being utilized by the manufacturer from the very Supplier that has been approved. To do this the Kosher certification agency will need to know the identity of the Ingredient and the identity of the Supplier and verify the match when they inspect the companies purchase records and manufacturing/warehouse facility. Bear in mind that a Kosher certification agency could not function if it developed a reputation of disclosing the highly confidential information of a prospective or actual client. Furthermore, as a company you are dealing with Rabbis and there is a high level of ethical integrity in these regards that should be and can be presumed.
For some companies the review of their ingredients, supplier’s and the corresponding Kosher documentation is all that is required for the Kosher certification of their products. While the review can initially be done electronically via email ultimately the Kosher certification agency will need to send a Kosher inspector to review and verify the information provided. I speak specifically of examples where a Company is a Supplier of Ingredients that they source from various other Suppliers/Manufacturer’s. This company applying for Kosher certification is not manufacturing anything where other concerns regarding Kosher certification come into play and an ingredient review and verification is all that is necessary.
For companies that actually manufacture products there is a need to evaluate the production facility and at times the very production process. We can discuss this in a post dedicated specifically to these subjects.