The KQ

There are well over one million products kosher certified. Use our app to find the few that are not, as in NOT Kosher Certified (NKC)!

The question mark (?) incorporated into our logo and app title emphasizes that while ubiquitous kosher certification may be familiar to a small, Kashrus observant population, the myriad obscure kosher seals (Hebrew: “hekhshers”) and all that goes with them are entirely foreign to most consumers. Hence, we have named this issue The Kosher Question, actually a comprehensive slogan comprising no less than these twenty challenges as a start to becoming “Kosher Aware”:

1. Why do so few Americans know how prevalent kosher-certified products are in their purchases?

This is, perhaps, the most mind-boggling question in this series. How and why has the general public been kept in the dark regarding a food certification industry that is almost a century old?  The KosChertified? App addresses many aspects of this.

2. Should the Kosher-Certification Industry operate under a benevolent “income-free” basis as religious organizations often do, rather than tax-exempt revenue driven businesses?

Wouldn’t it be morally righteous for the various religious agencies to provide charitable kosher-certification of products for those who demand it? Instead, this certification industry operates with an enormous revenue stream, all tax-free because of its religious organization status. The issue here is that most consumers are not members in the congregation that is extracting income from such certification, and usually receive no benefit from the programs they fund.. They are not given transparent disclosure to the amount of income derived, nor where it goes. They cannot pressure the organizations to be clear on financial reporting with the threat of “leaving the congregation”.  Not having this leverage to disclose financials goes against the original arguments in our congress that permitted religious organizations to operate tax-free without reporting their numbers. 

If performing certification cannot be realistically accomplished under a benevolent charitable framework, then perhaps these kosher agencies can adopt a forthright model like that of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) whose mission is to gain and maintain the public respect and confidence in the operations of the respective charity, “Enhancing Trust in Christ-Centered Churches and Ministries.” 

Bottom line: the key to the tax-exempt status in religious organizations always stemmed in the ability for a member of the religious group to leave if not happy or trusting the finances of the elders (or executive branch). With kosher-certification as an industry, their reach goes far beyond their immediate congregation and swamps hundreds of millions of consumers unaware of their take.

3. Low transparency in kosher-certification…what’s the big deal?

In our 500 respondent Survey analyzing consumer behavior and attitudes, more than half wanted either 1) no religious involvement in the production of their food or 2) a higher transparency (than normal) disclosing this on the product’s certification seal. These consumers are not being served well.

4. Are there consumers who don’t want religious meddling in their food?

We have conducted two major national surveys on consumer sentiment, with about 30%+ of 1,100 respondents answering that they would prefer no religious organizations getting involved in the food production of items they buy. Little do most know how ubiquitous kosher certification really is!

5. Why are kosher seals (hekhshers) the least visible certification on product labels?

Please peruse our Critical Study on Kosher Seals to get a scientific perspective on why kosher certification seals are in a “class of their own”, helping contribute to “Kosher Unawareness” in the general public.

6. Why is most of my food from the supermarket certified kosher?

See our discussion on “The Uninformed” within the app, where the leading kosher-certification agency presents their explanation, while an author on kosher foods leaves hints to another reason. This certainly is an engaging topic of interest for many with inquiring minds!

7. What is the origin of the kosher-certification industry?

At almost a century old in America, you can get a snapshot of its growth and progress in KosChertified?’s section labeled ”Kosher in the News”.

8. Are kosher foods intended for you?

Our app looks into the domain of these ancient dietary laws. The certifying agencies claim that their service attracts people outside of Judaism, for instance Seventh Day Adventists, vegetarians or lactose intolerant individuals (because of the ‘D’ or ‘M’ symbols sometimes accompanying kosher seals). But looking closer into the agencies’ written articles, it appears convincing that these they are strictly conducting this certification business for the benefits of their own congregational members. Interpretation of the New Testament further reveals varied opinions as to who is expected to keep kosher, and our app points you to sources.

9. Given the dominance of kosher-certified goods in our stores, should food manufacturers begin producing NON-Kosher-Certified (NKC) equivalents for those who do not follow dietary laws of this nature?

To accomplish this would require a new movement of consumer activism which raises awareness that not all people are kosher-keepers, and producers would need to run separate operations to respect and accommodate this. The end result could prove as a fair compromise that delivers food products with cost savings to the majority.

10. Is there more to Kashrus (the Kosher dietary laws) than just what can and cannot be eaten?

On the surface level, as with the kosher seals, kosher certification assures the observant kosher-keeping consumer that a rabbinical authority has approved the ingredients of a product as well as the equipment that was used to produce it. However, we recommend you read our blog on Kosher Tolerance and judge for yourself if segregation or xenophobia might have been incorporated post-Torah when three proscriptions were added to the laws: Bishul Akum, Pas Akem, and Stam Yainom.

10. Is there more to Kashrus (the Kosher dietary laws) than just what can and cannot be eaten?

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11. Does the Christian Gospel address the issue of kosher foods?

Yes. The KosChertiified? App will point you to the specific pages in the New Testament. You can also see this page for an Orthodox Christian perspective.

12. Why are kosher seals often segregated from other food certification seals??

Read our Critical Study on Kosher Seals, and you’ll discover that even when various food certifications are grouped together in a cluster on a label, it is likely that the kosher seal will be totally separate from that group (and smaller too). Is this meant as a means of standing out? We don’t believe so. The consumer’s eyes likely fixate on the cluster of other seals, keeping them from noticing the smaller kosher seal somewhere else on the packaging. 

13. Who benefits from kosher-certification?

Download the KosChertified? App to make your own judgement.

14. What conflicts of interest exist for the American people and The Kosher Question?

Our app presents a discussion and objective critique on matters of Cost, Benefits, Tax Exemption Status, Kosher Slaughter, Certification of Non-Edibles, Ideology, Religious Domain, Diversity, and Christianity’s Perspective – as they relate to The Kosher Question. And although food producers around the world pay for kosher-certification services from the big agencies (especially in Asia), America and Israel are the two countries that sell the most kosher-certified products. 

15. What does a kosher-certification seal look like?

Examples are shown in our app. There are about six major agencies whose symbols you’ll see more frequently than others. However, there may be hundreds or more in America including the “hekhshers” of smaller rabbinical agencies.

16. Are there any implications for the consumer who is not a kosher-keeper?

The kosher-certification industry certifies over one million products.  It is big business, and the tax-exempt revenue flows to many programs and institutions worth examining for its effect on you and your interests.

17. Why should I care about this particular certification industry?

Food certification has become very popular and competitive. Most of the big ones, “Organic”, “Non-GMO”, “USDA Certified” and others are very prominent and clearly are intended to attract consumers from the symbols on the packaging. On the other hand, the Kosher-certification seals and marketing is almost shrouded in mystery to the average person. You’ll discover fascinating and intriguing insight from our app that may ultimately change your shopping and eating behavior. You’ll see how our food culture in America may have had a profound effect on your own interests!

18. What is Kashrus?

Our app provides a convenient glossary of words used within the kosher food culture and certification industry. “Kashrus” and “Kashrut” pertain to the entire realm of Jewish dietary law, rituals and practice. But since you are essentially paying for kosher-certification services already (whether you knew it or not), can you tell us what a “Mashgiach” is?

19. How is kosher food different from food that is NOT Kosher-Certified (NKC)?

The answer to this goes to the heart of the religious dietary laws that prescribe it, the ingredients, special supervision, separation of meat & dairy, blessings and more. Our app details all of this.

20. What is Hekhsher Tzedek?

Later called Magen Tzedek, it was a short lived concept (2008-2013) that supplemented kosher certification with ethical conformity, addressing the horrific details of the 2008 Agriprocessors kosher slaughterhouse crimes.

Great way to inform and educate the general public that has no clue what they are consuming and bringing into their households.

Jack A.

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