How to achieve kosher certification
Addressing issues for food processing and project implementation.
BakingBusiness.com, Aug. 28, 2012
by Jim Hays, PE, LEED AP, senior project manager, POWER Engineers
POWER Engineers

The market for kosher products is expanding greater than the overall food market. As baked and snack food products are introduced as kosher, all of the processes and ingredients used need to meet the requirements for kosher certification. This is not a simple set of tasks and must be planned and managed, just like many other complex business and engineering projects.

The Torah (the first five books of the Jewish scriptures) is the basis for the Jewish dietary laws. These laws determine what is fit or proper for consumption. The interpretation of these laws, as they relate to the specific processes, equipment, operational means and methods being considered, is recommended to be determined with the consultation of the mashgiach (rabbinic inspector) involved. He is the expert and has had extensive training in how Jewish law will affect a food process. The interpretation and implementation of the requirements should be discussed and coordinated with the mashgiach. He is the ultimate authority for the certification of your product.

Certifying experts are generally grouped into two categories. The first category contains national organizations that specialize in kosher certification and are generally utilized by large multi-national organizations. These organizations include The Orthodox Union (OU) and The Kosher Certification Committee for the Advancement of Torah (OK). The second group includes individual rabbis associated with local Jewish communities and rabbis who operate independently and provide critical certification for local businesses.

The general rules — by no means all of the rules — for the state of being kosher include:

This important certification is also very complex. The impact to baking and snack processes and operations should not be lightly considered or thought to be minimal, so the emphasis on communicating with the certifying experts is important. Items to consider could even include materials of construction for process equipment and boiler chemicals.

Several areas of the operations are affected by this certification addition. These items include ingredient management, kashering of the equipment and utensils, and utility concerns. Kashering, or the process of making something kosher, is a key component of certification and must also be scheduled into the manufacturing process, especially if the equipment is used for both kosher and non-kosher products.

The process to become kosher should be interpreted by the certifying organization. For example, OU defines the sanitizing temperatures as follows:

Yad soledes bo (120 to 165°F): Threshold temperature for food contacting a surface that must be kashered. If food contacts equipment at a lower temperature, it may be cleaned with caustic or soap and water and then considered ready for use in kosher production.

Libun kal (without a direct flame): After baking non-kosher bread, equipment must be kashered by achieving an equipment temperature, not the air temperature, of 550°F after 1 hour, 450°F after 1.5 hours, or 375°F after 2 hours. Note that what is usually measured in an oven or dryer is the temperature of the air rather than equipment, and the air temperature should be ignored. The equipment's temperature is what matters.

Bishul or pas yisroel (176°F): Minimum temperature required to maintain cooking or baking status. If an oven or boiler drops below 176°F, it may not be relit by a non-Jew.

Hag ľolah and pegimah (212°F): Required temperature of water used to wash equipment, including deep fryers, before it can be given kosher status or changed from meat to dairy or dairy to meat use. It is irrelevant if the water is boiling or not.

Libun gamur (900°F): Temperature at which a dry piece of thin equipment such as a belt or baking pan must be heated for a few seconds to become kashered.

This is a brief highlight of some of the very important items related to kosher certification. As with any serious and complex program or project, early planning with the appropriate and skilled expert is paramount in the ongoing success of the program.

This story is sponsored by POWER Engineers, which has one of the most comprehensive teams of engineers and specialists serving the baking and snack industry. As an extension of its clients' engineering teams, the company provides program management, integrated solutions and full facility design for the baking and snack industry. Learn more at www.powereng.com/food.