The Kashrut Authority and Kashrut in Australia
In general there are three levels of kashrut supervision undertaken by The Kashrut Authority:
1. The first level are certified products such as wine under our supervision, Jenbray Tuna, chalav yisrael dairy products etc, and including also our shechita and meat processing are made to a standard similar to that of such bodies as the Kashrut Department of the Beth Din Tzedek of the Eida HaChareidis of Jerusalem. Any difficult shailoit (halachic questions) in this regard we ask of HoRav HaGaon R’ Yaakov Blau Shlit”a of the Eida with whom we have a close relationship.
2. Then there are certified products made to the OK and OU standard. This may include dairy products that are not chalav yisrael. All of our certified products are to that standard as a minimum. The Kashrut Authority has a very close working relationship with the OU and the OK and with both Rav Belsky Shlit”a and Rav Shachter Shlit”a (The OU poskim). It should be noted that all our licensed facilities including caterers follow that same standard as a minimum including mashgichim present at all times that meat products are not under seal or lock and key, and mashgichim for all vegetables that require checking. This is something not always found in communities even larger than ours including in the USA.
3. We have a third level (that does not exist in the USA). These are what we have called “approved” products manufactured by persons not of the Jewish faith. I have written a detailed article explaining the halachic rationale and resultant differences as well as our current policies in that regard and you may find it on our website www.ka.org.au in the halachic policies section. It is in relation to this “level” that we indeed follow the London Beth Din, The Manchester Beth Din, The Johannesburg Beth Din, and all who currently list “approved” products.
Many might be tempted to say that the approved products are ‘less kosher’ than certified products – such a statement is in my opinion wrong. The reality is that they fall under a different halachic paradigm.
An analogy to illustrate: It is without question forbidden to add a drop of milk to chicken soup. If one did so on purpose one would not be permitted to eat the soup. However, if it fell in by accident, and was batel b’shishim (nullified using the one in sixty rule), the Halacha is unquestionably that one is permitted to eat the soup. Two apparently identical occurrences, yet there are two opposite outcomes. The reason for this is that we are dealing with two completely different paradigms - the meizid (purposeful intent) paradigm and the shogeg (unintentional/accidental) paradigm.
Similarly there are two distinct paradigms in relation to supervision of kosher foods. The certification paradigm, when a company comes to you and pays you for your services as well as markets also specifically to Jews; and the approval paradigm, where you initiate the visit to the company, you are not paid by the company and the company are not particularly interested in the Kosher market.
In practice the following general guidelines are used by us in the paradigm for approved products. (For further details see the above mentioned article):
a. If there is a definitely non-kosher ingredient then the product will not be listed regardless of the ability to nullify. We do not rely on bitul in such circumstances.
b. If there is uncertainty as to the nature of an ingredient or if it’s sub-components have not been able to be thoroughly investigated – provided that there is a reasonable likelihood that it is of kosher origin and in the worst case scenario the ingredient would anyway be batel – the final product will be approved ( but never certified) .
c. Certain leniencies may be employed in relation to the kosherisation of equipment and supervision of such kosherisation as well as frequency of visitation.
The OU, OK and most US agencies ONLY deal with the first paradigm. This is largely because of the size of the kosher market and the Jewish population of the USA. There are sufficient certified products so it is not necessary to have approvals. Furthermore, as companies are specifically marketing also to kosher consumers, it may not be possible halachically to employ the approval paradigm. However in other countries, such as the UK and Australia, where there are insufficient products and the relative size of our kosher consuming market is small we are entitled halachically to employ the approval paradigm.
Products manufactured at level 1 or 2 are all marked K or C in our directory. They are all formally certified or made to that standard and are colloquially called “mehadrin” (a term used to describe a mitzvah performed in a beautiful or meticulous fashion). [Though some would argue as to whether a chalav-stam (not chalav yisrael) product – albeit certified to OU/OK standard – should be called “mehadrin”].
Products that are level 3 or “approved” are listed without notation. The consumer has the choice to be mehader or not, and we are transparent with the information we provide allowing them that choice. We believe that this way we maximise the opportunities for people to keep kosher.
Kosher Australia based in Victoria has announced that it is moving to only use the certification paradigm, and as such in their most recent update they have removed products such as Sanitarium So Good. That policy change is of course their choice, and we emphasise that it should be fully respected by those under their jurisdiction. However, the rabbis of The Kashrut Authority (comprising the rabbis of The Sydney Beth Din and the Yeshiva Rabbinate with over forty years’ experience in Kashrut in NSW) are of the view that it is still necessary for us to retain the approvals paradigm.
We feel it would be both erroneous and onerous of us to impose on the general kosher consumer the stringency of only eating certified products when the approved products are kosher l’chatchila (permitted even in the first instance to be consumed). See Tur Orach Chaim Siman 110 , where we are instructed to pray upon entry to the Beit HaMidrash that “I do not err in a matter of halacha … and pronounce on … that which is permitted that it is forbidden”, which forms a significant contributing factor in our deliberations, if the consumer wishes to eat only ‘mehadrin’ products that is the consumer’s choice, and we give them that choice, but it is not a Halachic necessity and we are obliged not to render “that which is permitted - to be forbidden”.
Simply put, the availability and cost of Kosher here in Australia cannot be compared to that in the USA. Only listing certified products would place an added burden on the kosher consumer; and could cause those who are on the periphery of keeping kosher to turn away from kashrut observance. Of course, if it was halachically unacceptable to list approved products then the above rationale would bear no weight – the fact however is that the approved products are kosher l’chatchila to be consumed. It is on that basis that we have left the choice in the hands of the consumer whether to be mehader or not.
Those consumers who wish to use only the certification paradigm should feel comfortable eating at any of our caterers, eateries or establishments as well as using any product bearing the ka logo or marked K or C in the directory. Consumers who wish to avail themselves of the increased choices made available by the approval paradigm should feel free to do so in the knowledge that the products are all halachically acceptable.
I hope this clarifies the issues from our perspective. The Kashrut Authority will continue to inform consumers which products remain approved as well as the same time actively seeking to have more products certified.