What Is Kosher?


The industrial label shown above shows our JK symbol on the right, indicating it is kosher certified by us. It may eventually be used as a lubricant in a chain-driven, block-long cracker oven producing a familiar consumer product. But, it began as a poly alpha olefin produced on the Gulf Coast, shipped as a primary constituent to a blender of specialty lubricants in North Texas. If end product is kosher, the cracker, all constituent products, processes, and means of storage and conveyance must be kosher as well.


The multitude of subsidiary items in the making of a box of crackers are kosher certified by several different agencies. Each depends on the trustworthiness of the preceeding certification, and ultimately of the entire chain of certifications. The kosher certificate is supplemented by the constant back-chatter among kosher supervisors and supervising agencies. The world of kosher supervision is not large; people know who is knowledgeable, diligent, worthy of trust.


The rules and laws of kosher supervision are based on specific Biblical injunctions and thousands of years of commentary. The specification of what is and is not kosher is as objective as any ASTM standard. There is a prescribed list of kosher fauna and the method of slaughter; meat and dairy products cannot be mixed; and kosher products cannot be mixed in their processing, handling, storage, or conveyance with non-kosher products. On a molecular level the presence of fatty acids and their derivatives whose origin is uncertain will cause a product to be considered non-kosher. Many other constituents of manufacture which may only be peripherally involved such as catalysts, quenching agents, and filter media, whose incidental contact may impinge on the kosher certifiability of a product.


More than 1/3 of the packaged products in a typical grocery supermarket are labelled as kosher. Sigma-Aldrich, the chemical supply house, lists pages of chemical substances that are kosher certified. Many products of the petrochemical industry such as normal and poly alpha olefins are certified. Polyisobutylene, an important constituent of food service film, is kosher certified. There is hardly an industry or business, remotely related to food or food service, that does not include kosher certification by at least some of its manufacturers and producers. While only 5% of the market may actually require kosher products, more than 45% choose kosher because they consider it purer or more healthful than non-kosher equivalents. The absolute nature of kosher certification exceeds FDA standards in labelling for vegan, lactose intolerance, and several other health conditions.