Non Kosher in the Kitchen Cupboard

By Yankel Wajsbort posted August 02, 2016

While I can be quite annoying at the best of times (just ask my kids), once I started working for Kashrus I stepped up a notch. My friends now refer to me as the ‘Kosher cop’ since whenever I’m visiting, I cannot help but have a look in their kitchen pantry and point out things that really shouldn’t be there. (Most of my friends take it in good humour – at least, the remaining ones do.)

How does it happen that people who are orthodox, Shomrei Shabbos and Kashrus, end up with products that aren’t Kosher in their cupboard? There are a couple of reasons for this.

1. Confusion #1. The Kashrus guide is ambiguous. We do try to make things clear, but sometimes it’s just not possible (for example SPC Ardmona products) or we mess up (I admit, I’m only human).

2. Confusion #2. Differences between what is in the Kashrus Guide and statements made by other Kashrus authorities. Given the due diligence we put into what we list from both the food technology and halachic perspectives, we would like to think that we are correct. Each product goes through three levels of checking to ensure its approval or otherwise. If we’re not sure about a product, it does not go in the book.

3. Deleted products. Unfortunately, products come off the list for various reasons – manufacturers change the way they do things or make an error or find that sourcing Kosher ingredients sometimes is not economical. Just because the product was Kosher in 2006, doesn’t mean that it is still Kosher in 2016. We had a very embarrassed call from a Jewish school who discovered that the vegetable oil that they were using at their unsupervised camps was not Kosher. The head mistress noted that it had been Kosher in 2002!

4. The shopkeeper said it was okay. We always advise consumers not to rely on the assurances of the shopkeeper who may not be an objective party in your Kosher purchasing.

5. The manufacturer said it was Kosher. Often manufacturers make this claim. When they do, ask for a copy of their current Kosher certificate so you can check it. 

6. Rumour mill. People say that they heard that Kosher Australia had approved the product. For example, at a recent adult seminar, a sign stating that all flavours of a certain brand of tea were now acceptable (I found out that this had happened when people mentioned this to me a few days later.) Of course we issued no statement – someone listened into a conversation between Rabbis and assumed from the tone of the discussion that all was now fine. Rule of thumb – if a product is okay, we’ll send out a note. If there is no advice from us, then there is no change.

7. Of course, the ‘mother of all reasons’ is that “we saw it at so-and-so’s place and they are extremely machmir”. The so-called Kashrus of ‘but everyone eats it’. For any of the above reasons, consumers erroneously purchase non-Kosher products. As always, please check the current Kosher Australia Food Guide first. You may discover something that you didn’t know.