How Kosher are your Kosher Claims?

By Linda Jackson on 29 May 2019

Producing a quality product is a key objective for any food manufacturer. And quality means meeting the customers requirements. Customer requirements can be vary and include the obvious general like food safety but others may be quite specific to a group. One such group would be those of Jewish faith who observe kosher rules for the food they eat.

Thanks to SAAFFI (South African Association of the Flavour & Fragrance Industry) and the Union of Orthodox Synagogues South Africa, the food industry were enlightened as to exactly what these rules are and how to ensure compliance at a training course, hosted by the Kashrut department of the Bethdin in Johannesburg.

Presented by Rabbi Dovi Goldstein and Sharon Bolel, the workshop provided a comprehensive overview of the religious and technical requirements for producing kosher food. And there was a lot of food too. Delegates were treated to the best of Jewish fare and a warm and entertaining interaction with senior rabbis and other staff.

In his opening, Rabbi Dovi Goldstein, the Managing Director of the Kosher Department at the Beth din, expressed his thanks to industry for their willingness to engage, acknowledging that it can be overwhelming process. The Kashrut division has undergone significant changes in the last 18 months with the view to much Improved customer service and helping make the process easier for companies wanting to comply. He highlighted that Union of Orthodox Synagogues South Africa is a member of the Association of Kosher organisations, AKO. Although there are over 1400 kosher bodies worldwide, AKO accreditation is for those wanting to remain at the highest level, of which there are only 100. Due to this accreditation,  there may be kosher certificates that are not accepted by the South African Beth Din. It is therefore important to know who the members are and rather use suppliers that make use of these accredited bodies

Check the and for the list of members. If in doubt, check with the Kosher department at the Beth din.


All products registered in South Africa may use the SA Kosher mark.


Imported products may have a different symbol.


He stressed that Ingredients almost never need dual certification. However for consumer products, these usually require local certification if the product is exported. Due to the mutual recognition of bodies, this can normally be facilitated from the South African office.


What is kosher?

Sharon Bolel of Sharon Bolel and Associates Consulting presented an in-depth review of the rules of kosher. As a person of the Jewish faith, this presentation was not only highly informative but poignant due to the very personal connection with the contents.

Feeding people is a serious business for Jewish people and they take their food seriously. Almost possible to get anything kosher so long as it falls in the rules of Kosher(kashrut) – there is even Kosher McDonalds in Israel.

So, what are the rules? A rabbi’s blessing has nothing to do with it – this is a set of technical requirements set out by the Torah that deals with three categories of kosher foods – meat, dairy and parev.

Firstly, what is Kosher – the definition means food that is fit to be ingested by one who adhere to the laws of Kashrut – Kosher dietary laws. The extent to which someone adheres to the rules is a personal matter but the rules are definitive.



Jewish people can only eat species that chew the cud AND have cloven hooves. You can’t be half kosher. Any one for giraffe?

These species must then be slaughtered ritually. The slaughterer is a highly respected individual who is highly trained in the anatomy of the animal, the sharpening of the blade in addition to the high level of religious training. The knife is also very important in the process and is checked before and after each slaughter. The knife (chalef) is sharpened in a particular way and this process is takes animal welfare into account. The treatment of animals is a significant part of the Jewish religion and the slaughter process is very quick using this incredibly sharp blade.

Most ritual slaughter will be done in existing registered abattoirs  that are hired for the purpose of ritual slaughter.

Checking of the animal is the next critical step.  The lungs are checked to ensure the animal would have lived another year without slaughter, only then is it approved for consumption. Only eat the forequarter of the animal is allowed to be eaten. The hind quarters may be further trimmed by removal of certain fats, veins called treibering. The full time Kosher supervisor in the butcher will supervisor this.

The final step is Kashering which is the removal of all blood, this is done by soaking and salting the meat to draw out any blood. Specially designated bowls were used for this traditionally.

Fowl and poultry are handled the same way.

Meat that is deboned and packaged will then be sealed and this seal is part of the chain of authenticity is called the Kosher chain to ensure the entire process is not broken. This is done by ensuring the appropriate seals and certificates are in place.


This chain is particularly important for the production of meat and chicken derivatives and flavours to be kosher.


Jewish people can only eat fish that looks like fish – it has to have fins and scales. Fish derivatives are used a lot in sauces and should be carefully checked as most intense flavours come from shellfish which are not permitted.

Dairy products

Any milk from a Kosher animal is considered kosher. Microbial rennet and cultures are better options as these are often Kosher. This is why yoghurt and cheeses are often scrutinized. All additions should also be checked. All these products will require Beth din certification meaning they are manufactured under the supervision of the Kosher supervisor.

Meat and milk mixtures

Meat should not be cooked in milk and no mixtures are permitted – no cheese burgers, no pepperoni pizza and no beef lasagna!

Parev ingredients.

Some ingredients are neither meat nor milk such as eggs, fruits and vegetable, grains and fish – these can then be used with either meat or milk. Therefore tuna lasagna is permitted but meat and fish may not cooked together.



Jewish people are very sensitive about grapes and wine. Wine is permitted provided it is certified as kosher. All kosher wine is normally special production runs where all labour would be Jewish. The use of grape products can be a challenge in the food industry, particularly for the fruit juice industry who make use of deflavoured grape jouce. Many colourants are grape based. Even Natural cream of tartar would be need specific certification.


Insects are a NO GO for the Jewish home. Besides having to pass on chocolate covered mopani worms, any infestation would need to be removed prior to consumption. Certain vegetables may be avoided as a result of the difficulties if ensuring no insects are present. Colourants and flavours are often a concern as these may be derived from insects. Storage practices for flour and grains are very important and these products must be sieved in homes and Jewish bakeries.


These can be used combined with meat or milk but no blood spots are permitted. Eggs from non kosher birds would also not be permitted.


Contamination of utensils by non-kosher products.

Keeping foods separate is one thing but what about the containers used for preparation. A jewish belief is that the vessel would take on the characteristics of the food cooked in it and therefore vessels used for non kosher products must be koshered before use. This involves specific cleaning processes discussed later under Kosher compliance.



This is a specific religious festival which has additional rules. During this time all grains that can be fermented and all yeast products will be removed from the home and may not be eaten during this

8 days of eating and drinking. Most Jewish families will observe kosher rules more strictly at this time. Besides removing all the barley, oats, rye, spelt, wheat, pulses, legumes and yeast, a Jewish wife would change all the dishes in her home and bring out those specifically for Passover. (Most orthodox homes would have 4 sets by the way)

Potato, tapioca and cassava starches would be permitted.

Because of the additional restrictions, currently only 84 companies qualify for passsover in South Africa.


Kosher compliance process in South Africa

Rabbi Goldstein then explained that there is an increase in demand for kosher compliance in South Africa with 2-3 new requests a week. This trend is seen worldwide and research has shown that non-Jewish consumers also trust the kosher chain – it can indeed be trusted. Perceptions are that kosher is healthier and safer. Up to 40% of food in USA is kosher certified. The additional benefit is that If a product is kosher, it is halal – provided it contains no alcohol. Even Coca Cola became kosher in 1936 after changing a secret ingredient to meet the requirements.

There are over 600 local companies that have compliant products. Africa is an exciting place for growth of kosher certification with the UoS-SA Beth din being called on for certification in West Africa.

The process of kosher certification requires a number of steps for a certificate to be issued within the two week target period.

  1. Desk top evaluation

The process, that was explained by Renata Botma, Jody Bellon and Rabbi Anton Klein, involves a comprehensive application form which must provide a full material breakdown with code, name and manufacturer. The all important kosher certificates must also be submitted for each ingredient. If certificates are not available, confirmation of raw material breakdown, product specification and origin will be required. The less information you have, the higher the chances are that you would be advised to source from alternative supplier. You should submit all alternative suppliers’ documentation at once to save yourself future changes.

Based on the information available on the database, an impact assessment will be conducted by the Compliance manager at the Kosher Department, Rabbi Klein. The impact assessment will take into consideration the source, the process and the potential for cross contamination with non-kosher ingredients. Additional information may be requested. Currently kosher certificates are only valid for 12 months. Kosher certificates from the AKO certification bodies will be accepted. The manufacturer details are required in all cases and must be obtained. If the product is a consumer product, labels must be approved prior to printing.

“The Rabbinic legislature is black and white” and even if a flavour contains a dairy ingredient, the whole flavour is milk under kosher rules. These rules are taken very seriously and nonconformance alerts are issued to the community.


  1. Site inspection

The initial inspection involves dedication of lines and holding tanks. Different to halal certification, the whole facility does not have to be kosher. If the ingredient uses heat or the ingredient remains in the utensil/vessel for more than 24 hours, the utensils takes the characteristics of the ingredient. Therefore, the decontamination of utensil is very important. The line/vessel can be kashured – cleaned. Between meat and milk containing products, it would need to be brought back to neutral, using something parev to clean it such as water. If there was heating in the process, a temperature higher than the process temperature must applied in the cleaning process for this vessel to be cleansed. CIP processes are very important and steam returns should also be dedicated to maintain kosher status.

The number of inspections will vary based on the product/ingredient and risk of contamination. The AKO requirement is monthly inspections for flavour houses due to the complexity of the formulations.

Practically speaking dealing with a kosher product means applying the same principles as you allergen management protocol.


In his closing the Rabbinic coordinator, Rabbi Dovi Rabin, thanked SAAFFI for their persistent work to assist the Kosher department to improve and confirmed the commitment to a fair and transparent process. And then we ate some more, in true Jewish style!




Although this is not a food safety issue, I was struck with the benefits of this certification to strengthen your FSSC 22000 controls. Knowing your suppliers, the origin of your ingredients and the manufacturing processes are all requirements to ensure food safety but also to counter food fraud. By using this requirement as best practice and linking it to your change management process of Iso 22000:2018, you can go a long way in improving the confidence in your supply chain.

One concern voiced by many in the room and one I must agree with, is WHERE ARE THE BUYERS? The need to develop strong relationships with suppliers is vested in the procurement department, not the quality department. It is essential that the supply chain process owners must be involved and committed to these and food safety requirements to be sure your supplier quality assurance programme is effective.


 Coordinator Rabbi Rabin

Sharon Bolel SB & associates