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What Is Kosher and What Does Kosher Mean?

I. Introduction

Kosher, a Hebrew word meaning fit, proper, or correct, has transcended its religious origins to become a term synonymous with quality and integrity, especially in the context of food and drink. In the modern world, it is most commonly used to describe food and drink that complies with Jewish religious dietary law. This article delves into the multifaceted world of kosher, exploring its meaning, the process of certification, and the various categories and definitions that govern what is considered kosher.

II. What is Kosher Certified?

For a product to be kosher certified, it must meet stringent requirements. Each ingredient, food additive, and processing aid used in its production must also be kosher. The production process itself must be suitable for kosher requirements, and therefore it must be approved by a kosher auditor. Even the production lines and equipment can render products non-kosher if they are also used to manufacture non-kosher products. The complexity of these requirements underscores the importance of kosher certification, ensuring that food products adhere to the highest standards of quality and religious compliance.

III. Kosher Definitions

A. Meat & Poultry

As instructed in the Torah, not all animals and birds are considered kosher. Common kosher animals include the cow, goat, and sheep, while non-kosher examples are the pig, horse, camel, and rabbit. Most poultry, such as chicken, turkey, goose, and duck, is kosher. To be considered kosher, meat and poultry must be slaughtered in accordance with Jewish law and have the blood removed via salting or roasting. This must all be done under strict rabbinical supervision, and retail products containing any animal or poultry-derived ingredient are assumed to be non-kosher unless certified by a reputable kosher certification agency.

B. Dairy

Dairy products must come from kosher animals. In countries like the EU and USA, where the source of milk is guaranteed by civil law, some Jewish authorities allow milk products without full-time kosher supervision. However, some communities still require their milk to be fully supervised, known as Cholov Yisroel. Cheese products require full-time kosher supervision due to the common use of rennet derived from an animal source.

C. Eggs

Eggs are considered kosher if they are from a kosher bird and do not contain any blood spots, adding another layer of scrutiny to the kosher certification process.

D. Fish

Kosher fish must have fins and scales that are easily removed. Examples include salmon, tuna, sole, and plaice. Non-kosher fish include all shellfish, eels, shark, monkfish, huss, and catfish. Even roe and fish derivatives like fish oil and gelatine must come from kosher fish.

E. Parev

Parev foods, which do not contain any meat or dairy ingredients, present fewer kosher complexities. However, to be kosher certified as Parev, they must not share production equipment with meat or dairy products when produced at a temperature above 40°C.

F. Insects

All insects are strictly non-kosher. Ensuring the absence of insects requires thorough inspection and cleaning of fruit and vegetables, as pesticides may kill but not remove them.

G. Passover

During the 8-day festival of Passover, Jews may not eat leaven or fermented food or drink made from five specific grains. Many also refrain from ‘Kitniyot’ like corn, soy, rapeseed, peanuts, beans, and rice. Two standards exist for Passover products: Kosher for Passover and Kosher for Passover Kitniyot.

H. Wine and Grape Products

All grape products must be supervised throughout manufacturing, and handling must be done exclusively by Jews for it to be kosher.

I. Bishul Yisroel

Certain cooked foods like rice, eggs, and meat require a Jew to be involved in preparation for the product to be kosher.

J. Bread

Kosher bread has two levels of certification: Pas Palter, produced by a non-Jewish professional baker, and Pas Yisroel, or “Jewish” baked bread.

IV. Glossary of Kosher Terms

Several Hebraic terms are central to understanding kosher laws, such as Halacha (compliance to Jewish Law), Hashgacha (supervision), Hechsher (kosher accreditation), Kosher Dairy Cholov Akum (dairy without constant supervision), and Kosher Dairy Cholov Yisroel (constant supervision from milking to packaging).

V. Conclusion

The world of kosher is intricate and profound, reflecting a rich tradition that governs not only what can be consumed but also how it must be prepared, processed, and presented. From meat and dairy to Passover and bread, the regulations extend to surprising details, each with its unique requirements and considerations. The kosher certified symbol is not just a mark on a product; it’s a testament to adherence to a set of deeply held beliefs and practices. Understanding the intricacies of kosher offers insights into a world where food is not merely sustenance but a reflection of faith, tradition, and community.

VI. Contact Information

For those who have further questions or seek additional information, please feel free to email us. Your inquiries are welcome, and we are here to assist you in your exploration of the fascinating world of kosher. for Kosher Certification South Africa, visit MK Kosher.