Newsletter #3 Friday December 24, 2010
Hello and welcome. This week we bring you new information about Australian kosher products and answer your questions – we are so pleased to receive your many and varied queries and have been really focused on investigating the kashrut status of many products available locally. One thing is for sure, as soon as we have the answers, we are committed to beaming them out to you.
In addition, we feel it is important to, effectively, take a step back and explain decisions and the rationale behind them. On occasion, we may be bound by confidentiality agreements that we have with our producers (e.g. revealing specific ingredients) but we will always share with you what we can. We know that sometimes it may be confusing to receive additions and deletions to the kosher products guide… and you, our kosher consumer, may be left standing in the supermarket wondering, honestly wondering, why a product that has been in your fridge or pantry for months or years is now no longer acceptable.
The KA Team endeavours to provide you with the information you desire, to arm you with knowledge, so we all understand the kashrut status of products. So before we dive in, thank you for asking, thank you for requesting the research, it has been and will continue to be our pleasure to represent you, the kosher consumer.
So let’s take a stroll together down our local supermarket aisle….
Okay let’s talk about Kettle Chips. We know that two varieties are kosher: Crinkle Cut Salted Potato Chips and Original Salted Potato Chips, but what does the following mean in the product guide: "the first character after the use-by date on the same line or the next line must not be a ‘3’"?
Kettle Chips are made in many factories, each factory is allocated a number. This number is then stamped after the use-by date on each packet of chips, so you, the consumer, may trace its derivation back to its original source (well, technically that is in a potato field somewhere, but you get our drift…. ) For the moment, the company has not let kosher authorities visit factory number ‘3’, therefore we can’t verify the kashrut status of any product made at that particular plant. If we can’t see it, we can’t trust it. If we can’t trust it, we can’t give these chips from that factory our seal of approval. So, when buying Kettle Chips, other numbers (i.e. other factories) are fine … ‘3’ is not.
Speaking of chips, you asked why Pringles made in the United States are kosher, (available locally at kosher shops), featuring a stamped OU hechsher, whereas others that are shipped from Belgium or Asia (available Australia-wide in supermarkets) are not kosher. The answer is that Pringles are made in many factories around the world. The Kashrut Certificate issued regarding the kosher status of Pringles, states that for a box of Pringles to be kosher, it must have the Orthodox Union stamp on the box. This certifies that the factory production has been checked by the Orthodox Union authorities in America and is given the kosher ‘green light’. The same cannot be said for Belgian or Asian factories, therefore no guarantees can be made around the world, and hence those Pringles on our supermarket shelves are not acceptable.
Back in September 2009, we were delighted to introduce the Mexico City All Natural corn chips range – yes, a new authentic corn chip on the kosher block… Well, Mr. Herve Sada, director of Mexico City Food Products, is pleased his corn chips are certified kosher and understands full well how it has "opened the market to more consumers. Our product is 100% Australian owned and 100% preservative free, with our corn naturally stone ground".
He is excited to inform kosher consumers of a new flavour sensation that has just been added to the kosher product guide: All Natural Corn Chips with BBQ flavour. He has invited the KA Team to sample all kosher flavours next time we are in Mortdale. Thanks Mr. Sada but with Mexico City Corn Chips distributed by R. Solomon & Co., the KA Team along with kosher consumers can find these corn chips at Franklins Rose Bay, Pagewood, St. Ives, and also at all kosher shops. Thanks for the invite though! (Note: two flavours are not acceptable: All Natural Corn Chips with Cheddar and Romano and All Natural Corn Chips with Cheddar, Romano and Chilli).
Okay let’s take a walk on the wild side and throw our taste buds into disarray – from the tangy chips to a product that is cold and sweet. Thanks for letting us know how much you are enjoying the kosher No Frills ice cream flavours: vanilla, vanilla caramel and vanilla chocolate. Our kosher product guide states that these are kosher "only when Best Before Date code ends with the letter (S)". In this case, the ‘S’ simply refers to the site where the ice cream was made – and this factory was checked and approved. Reverend Samra, our KA Kashrut Co-ordinator believes "it is so important that we offer generic products and include options at a lower price point".
A couple of weeks ago, Schweppes Flavoured Mineral Water was removed from the KA product guide. Let us clarify: in this range, Schweppes have shifted from including artificial flavours (that are known to be kosher) to natural flavours and colours. This decision has had ramifications on the product’s kashrut status. Some flavours now contain grape juice or Colour 120 (cochineal or carmine) or other non-kosher ingredients. It is really important that you take a few seconds to read the bottle label and also read our guide at the top of our soft drinks section … to determine if the particular flavour you are holding in the supermarket contains these newly included non-kosher additives.
Did you know that there are currently 1,063 kosher agencies worldwide! Some of these exercise leniencies in their kashrut certifications that the largest, most respected kashrut agencies do not endorse. Thank you for enquiring about the Indian cuisine range "Tasty Bite", available at Coles nationally. This product has a foreign hechsher called the Kosher Inspection Service India. As we are not able to investigate this Mumbai hechsher ourselves, we take advice from the larger global kosher agencies that at this time, the Kosher Inspection Service India, does not meet the criteria that we, and the other worldwide "hechsher heavies" have set as a stringent standard of kashrut.
We heard that the Sephardi Synagogue here in Sydney has their fantastic "Awafi" cookbook for sale featuring many Indian recipes. So now, let’s buy some aromatic spices and let’s get cooking over the summer - Indian-style!
We have so much more to chat about and will kick off 2011 investigating and answering more of your Australian kashrut questions. We will also outline for you just who we are – yes, who comprises the KA Team here in Sydney. Feel free to enquire about any product, anytime.
The KA Team