What is The KA?
The KA is the kashrut-licensing arm of the Sydney Beth Din and the Yeshiva Rabbinate. The KA is administered by a Board of Management which includes 5 Rabbis from the Sydney Beth Din and the Yeshiva Rabbinate, and up to 5 Lay members. Halachic matters are determined by the Rabbinic arm of the Kashrut Authority Board. The day to day running and financial management is overseen by the Lay members of the board. Apart from Rabbi Gutnick, all Board members, who must be shomer Shabbat and shomer kashrut, work in a voluntary capacity.
Rabbi Moshe D Gutnick (Rabbinic Administrator), Rabbi Aaron Groner (Assistant Rabbinic Administrator) and Rev Chaoul Samra (Senior Supervisor) liaise with manufacturers, and investigate products. The KA is a member of AKO (Association of Kashrut Organisations), and also has a very close working relationship with overseas Kashrut agencies such as the OU and OK as well as with Kosher Australia, Agudas Chabad and Adass Yisrael of Victoria.
The KA certification is recognised around the world and the KA conducts hashgacha (supervision) for itself and other kashrut authorities in the USA, Israel, Asia, New Zealand and other parts of the world.
In every Jewish community there are people with different standards. The KA works very hard and always within Halacha in order to provide the widest range of kosher products possible, to enable people to eat in each other’s homes. Halachic sources for all decisions are available on request to Rabbi Gutnick.
As a matter of ethical responsibility, The KA does not market any kosher eatery or product. Such marketing is more appropriately carried out by the proprietors and the producers themselves.
How does The KA work financially?
In respect to supervision and kashering of premises, the fees charged to licensees are used to pay the mashgichim carrying out those services, as well as paying for all statutory requirements such as superannuation, workers’ compensation insurance and taxation. The KA has recently introduced a 15% Administration Charge on the cost of the Mashgiach to help defray the costs involved in recruiting, training and providing Mashgichim as well as other costs such as office administration.
In the case of Eilat at Hadassa and M&M Poultry, the fees charged are used to pay the shochtim (ritual slaughterers), the mashgiach at the abattoirs, and the mashgichim at the butcher shop, as well as all statutory requirements, and the recently introduced Administration Charge. The KA charges a flat fee for Shechita both to Eilat at Hadassa and M&M as well as a per hour charge for the Mashgiach at the shop, and the permanent Mashgiach at the chicken farm.
Licence fees are payable only by takeaways, restaurants and bakeries and consist of a yearly fee of $2,019.60. All fleishig (meat) restaurants & take-aways have full time mashgichim and the cost of employment of these mashgichim is at most $24.15 per hour on weekdays and $32.20 on Shabbat, Yomim Tovim and Sundays. These hourly rates are for a “working” mashgiach, and include payment of all insurances, superannuation etc. The hourly rates are based on the Restaurant And Caterers Award. Pareve and dairy restaurants, take-aways and bakeries are charged a monthly “spot check” fee of up to $336.00 depending on the individual circumstances.
Caterers do not pay an annual licence fee, but there is a kashrut charge per head for all functions, which is currently $4.18. Communal organisations’ functions are granted a 50% discount on the kashrut charges.
The KA charges for Domestic Kosher certification, between $500 and $2200. For export certification, between $2200 and $6600. The final fee will depend upon the difficulty of supervision and is determined at the time of the issuance of certification. The KA will also investigate products without charge to the manufacturer when this is felt to be a need for the community.
The KA receives neither handouts nor donations from any section of the community and is totally self sufficient on a “user pays” basis.
Other KA fees are listed elsewhere on this website.
Is The KA transparent and accountable?
The KA’s accounts are independently audited, and are fully available and open to the public. They are filed annually with the Dept of Fair Trading.
Salaries of individual employees and financial arrangements with licensees are by law required to remain confidential.
Due to the confidentiality of many matters discussed at Board meetings, and like all other communal organizations, KA Board meetings cannot be open to the community. However, KA Board meetings are open to be addressed by any member of the community who wishes to raise a particular issue. We have also recently installed a page on our web site for the easier exchange of information.
Why is there only one certification body in NSW?
Prior to the establishment of the KA (in 1990) there were numerous certification bodies in NSW. This was the cause of much angst and divisiveness within the community. People accepted only particular hechsherim, and so were unable to eat at each other’s tables and functions. The community together with the Rabbonim decided it was preferable to have a united body with a universally acceptable standard
How many KA certified meat sources are there?
- Eilat at Hadassa Kosher Butcher.
- M&M Poultry (M & M are also certified for red meat but as yet have not begun production).
- Other stores will be added as demand dictates.
- Restaurants & Caterers can organise shechita (ritual slaughtering) at other facilities, under the supervision of the KA, provided the shochtim are available at that time.
Does The KA recognise meat supervised by Victorian or Western Australian kashrut bodies as kosher?
The KA, as a reliable supervising body, needs to be in control of the supervision of meat and poultry products throughout all stages of their production. This applies especially to meat and poultry and not other products as the laws of kashrut, in respect to meat and poultry, are much more stringent than in respect to other foods. This is standard practice for Kashrut bodies throughout the world.
This does not mean that meat from other schechitas is not kosher. It is simply not under the KA’s supervision, and therefore not able to be served at KA certified functions and venues.
There are similar precedents in the secular world. The Federal Drug Administration in the USA certifies thousands of products every year, but the Therapeutic Goods Administration in Australia does not accept these products until it carries out its own testing regime.
Why is kosher more expensive?.
It is sometimes said that particular products cannot be made kosher because the manufacturer refuses to pay the KA’s “exorbitant” fees to certify the particular product. This is simply not true.
All certifying and licensing costs are published on the KA web site, www.ka.org.au, for all to see, and are far from exorbitant. The costs involved are far outweighed by the additional business that will be derived from kosher certification. Full details can be found on the KA web site by clicking on the “Certification” link in the left hand menu.
Kosher meat is more expensive than non-kosher meat and this is a world wide phenomenon, not unique to Sydney. The reasons are simple. Kosher requires additional processes such as specially trained shochtim (ritual slaughterers), mashgichim (supervisors) at the abattoir, mashgichim at the butcher shop and/or processing plant. Furthermore, the kashering process is time consuming and involves the removal of forbidden fats – which increases the per kilo price of the remaining meat. Also the hindquarter of the animal may not be used for kosher, and the wholesalers charge a premium to the kosher butcher in order to dispose of it. The lack of economies of scale normally available in the non-kosher market, simply do not exist in the kosher market.
Sydney meat prices are often said to be higher than Melbourne prices but this is not always the case, especially in relation to poultry and lamb prices. In general,it is a fact that the cost of living is higher in Sydney than in Melbourne.
Where can one buy kosher products and why isn’t there a logo on everything?
There is a list of kosher stores in the KA Kosher Product Directory and also on the KA web site, www.ka.org.au
Coles, Woolworths and Franklins carry an enormous range of kosher products either “certified” with the KA logo or many other kosher logos, especially on imported products. There are also many, many proprietary brand products (canned fruits, vegetables, snack foods, crisp breads, lollies, rice, pasta etc) which are listed in the KA directory and on the KA website and can be found all over Australia.
Many manufacturers are not interested in having their products “certified” as our market is so small they see no need. Some may not want the overt display of “Jewish” symbols on their products.
Why are products kosher one day and not the next?
If a manufacturer changes their formula to include an unacceptable ingredient, or changes production to a non-kosher manufacturing line, the KA has no choice but to remove the product from its list. However, sometimes consumer pressure and demand can convince a company to revert to a kosher technique – such as was the case with Vegemite not so long ago. It should be noted that we are a very small market and as such do not command the same significance as does the kosher market say in the USA
How does one go about getting certain products investigated?
We, together with the Melbourne authorities, combine our limited resources to investigate as many products as we can in order to maximise the availability of products to the kosher consumer
The KA is not always aware of which products are desired by consumers but is always available to take requests.
In the case of particular health issues or allergies, manufacturers need to be approached to negotiate the substitution of unacceptable ingredients or to change their production methods. Due to the complexity of the issue and our small market, it often requires a personal approach from those who require these special needs. If the manufacturers are interested in having their products assessed, the KA will then follow it up.
Having said this, the market still needs to be of sufficient volume to make it viable for manufacturers to change their recipe or production process. The KA will do its best to investigate all products brought to its notice, either by consumers or the producers/importers.
What about organic products or products suitable for those with Coeliac disease?
Organic products are in general much more expensive than non-organic, and being organic does not mean a product is kosher. The KA needs to investigate organic products in the same way as other products.
The KA is working with people from the Coeliac Society to try build an authoritative list which can be relied upon to provide accurate information for Coeliacs. We will dedicate a special page on our website when this list is complete.
How do we get kosher products sold in the stores where we live?
Customers need to approach the popular stores and encourage them to stock kosher products and then do as much as possible to encourage their friends and family to support these stores. The storeowners will not stock products which do not sell in viable quantities.
Does The KA allow more competition in the kosher marketplace?
The KA has no role in protecting the market share of any licensees. To the contrary, the KA encourages applications for licences to operate butcheries, restaurants, caterers etc and they are welcomed with open arms. The KA does not make any commercial decisions in regard to how many licences it should issue. Our decision to grant or refuse a licence is based primarily on the applicant’s willingness and ability to abide by the halachic requirements of maintaining a KA licence. ( As well, they must also be in a position to pay the minimal supervision charges of the KA.)
Why do so many kosher establishments appear to open and close?
Unfortunately many people open businesses with high expectations. As with any business there are inevitable and cyclical market forces. The management skills of the proprietors also play a large role. Sydney has a very small kosher consuming market (by best estimates less than 10% of the Sydney Jewish Community), and proprietors often fail to take this into consideration. Not withstanding all of the above, Sydney, especially compared to cities with similar Jewish populations still has more restaurants and take-away facilities than many and there are key eateries and establishments which have withstood the test of time. Our eateries require support and patronage from the kosher community. As well, constructive feedback would be of great benefit to them.
Is it OK for someone to own a kosher restaurant whilst owning a non-kosher restaurant at the same time?
No. A KA licensee can generally not have an interest in a non-kosher restaurant or business at the same time. However, in order to encourage further kosher catering in the market place, we will license a fixed venue catering establishment, such as a city Hotel, to cater kosher provided stringent requirements are met.
Who is responsible for the state of cleanliness of restaurants?
Any concerns people have regarding cleanliness of premises, quality of food and cost of goods, should be referred to the vendor in the first instance, so that they can be given the opportunity to rectify the problems, rather than having people just not returning and leaving the proprietor without enough customers to survive. Should the problem persist, one needs to inform the appropriate authority, that is the NSW Food Authority or the local council’s health department. The KA is not the appropriate address for such complaints. However when there are gross violations of health regulations or sanitary conditions the KA will warn proprietors and will not continue supervision.
Why isn’t there one kosher product directory for the whole of Australia?
The KA shares an enormous amount of information with the kashrut authorities in Victoria, and the respective State lists are quite well co-ordinated to allow easy identification of products made in other states.
However, Sydney and Melbourne are different communities with different needs. This leads to some differences in halachic policies, which are clearly outlined in our respective directories. Furthermore each community has differing cost structures that uniquely benefit the different communities. The KA for example makes its Kashrut Directory freely available on the web, the Melbourne authorities do not. The KA is an independent Authority under the auspices of the Sydney Beth Din as well as the Yeshiva Rabbinate and while maintaining its independence, is truly representative of the broad spectrum of Sydney’s rabbinate. The Victorian authorities are not. For this and other reasons it remains in the best interest of the NSW Jewish community to have its own united, strong and vibrant Kashrut Authority and its own independent list.
Why are there products in the Directory which I can never find in the stores?
Individual retailers, be they large supermarket chains or small specialised stores, make their decisions to stock certain products based purely on sales potential, and if that potential does not translate into reality they will not stock the product. Commercial common sense dictates that they could not do otherwise. Shelf space is much too expensive to be taken up by products which do not sell in viable quantities.
We will endeavour to direct you to a store that does stock particular products. Some products, which may be unobtainable in the Eastern Suburbs or North Shore of Sydney, may be available in other areas.
Consumers need to approach the store owner/manager and encourage him/her to stock specific products and then to encourage your family and friends to support these stores and buy the products.