Choosing a Kosher certifying agency is a serious business. It can impact on sales and reputation so it pays to be choosy.
Thank you so much for choosing us!
Young, growing boys pride themselves on their height. Being taller is seen as a sign of advanced maturity and development. "I am taller than you" is often heard when two adolescents get together. Not often though, will one resort to standing on a brick in order to ensure a victory, albeit a tainted one, over his mate. Even rarer, that the other should see fit to ensure his own success by pushing his friend off the brick. The saintly Reb Simcha Zisel ztl. used this anecdotal incident to make a moral point. Whilst the former had resorted to artificial means, Reb Simcha Zisel, as was his habit, saw in this action an unquenchable thirst for greatness and predicted that the child would grow up to be someone of stature. As for his friend, Reb Simcha Zisel saw no merit in the tactic of using physical violence to topple an adversary, predicting that this was an early manifestation of negative personality traits.
I commence with this story in order to illustrate in graphic fashion my intention to use this opportunity to promote Manchester Beth Din, to explain its operating procedures and to accept all constructive criticism and practical suggestions. It is not my intention, nor my wish to refer to the practices of others or to denigrate them in any way whatsoever. It is part of the ethos of out Beis Din to work in harmony with other and to show due respect and recognition.
A: There are a number of reasons. Very often a company will have received a request from a potential customer to provide a product certified as Kosher. This is either indicative of a wish by the customer to supply the Kosher market or at least to be in a position to supply should the need arise. On other occasions the company itself is looking to capitalise on export opportunities and are aware that in order to maximise sales, especially in Eretz Yisroel and the USA as well as in significant parts of Europe, kosher approval is essential. Finally, the Beth Din is sometimes approached by a wholesaler who wishes to market a particular product and it will look to the Beth Din for an introduction to a company that the Beth Din feels would be able to supply the requisite kosher product.
A: The company will be asked to fill out a detailed application form which will be sent to them. This is shortly to be available on the Beth Din's web-site. As confidential information is likely to be contained in this document, the Manchester Beth Din will, at this stage, sign a Confidentiality Agreement.
A: The company will be asked to make a total declaration of all ingredients that go into the product(s) in question. This will include processing agents that do not necessarily find their way into the final product. Information will also be required regarding other products that may share the production lines and equipment as this can have a serious bearing on the kashrus of the product. Similarly, one will wish to know what other items are made in the factory as this too can have an impact especially as far as condensate returns are concerned. Obviously it will be necessary to know the names etc. of all the various suppliers of these ingredients. Finally, one will seek general information regarding the nature of the process, whether it is a hot or cold production, whether it is continuous or with breaks etc.
A: Whilst at this stage it is far too early to make any commitments, there are a number of issues that can now be discussed. This can include the pros and cons of supervised batch production as against a general approval, the possibility of altering some of the ingredients or suppliers and some general information about charging policy. One will also wish to discuss the next stage which will involve a full audit of the factory.
A. The audit will be made either by a Dayan of the Beth Din or a senior kashrus consultant. In order to work with a company, one needs to foster good public relations and therefore every effort will be made to meet with the key personnel prior to commencing the actual inspection to create a warm and productive working relationship.
The opportunity will be taken to check that the ingredients disclosure was correct and fully-comprehensive and that a full understanding is gained of all heating processes including temperatures at various stages and as mentioned above, the possible use of condensate return. Questions will be asked concerning all other activities that take place on site even if they do not involve the actual kosher production and similarly information will be sought regarding the other activities that this company carries out on other sites as well as activities that may be carried out on site for other companies. A visit will be made to the storage area and packaging area to gain a full picture of all activities.
A. A written report will be produced to the Beth Din who will consider whether approval can be given, whether batch productions or general approval is appropriate, what level of supervision will be required if it is to be a batch production, the frequency of visits if it is to be general certification and whether any changes are required to the ingredients, the suppliers or to production methods. In the event of koshering being required a programme will be agreed with the company. Discussions will then take place between the administrative section of the Beth Din and the company regarding the cost of the Hechsher and the timing of any productions. The incorporation of the Beth Din logo onto labelling and any other issues will be finalised. Finally a contract will be signed by the Beth Din and the Company.
A: There will be visits from time to time by a Dayan or senior Rov to ensure that there is full compliance with the wishes of the Beth Din. Experience has shown that on-site supervisors very much welcome the presence of a Rov and the support this demonstrates. This will also be an opportunity to ensure that the company are satisfied with the service being given and to look at future plans and prospects.
A: A written protocol will be given to the mashgiach telling him what to expect at the factory and how to proceed, especially if he is to supervise a batch production. In cases where the factory is complex, a senior Rov may well attend the first production to offer guidance and support to the mashgiach.
A: This decision will be taken by the Beis Din. It will depend on the location, duration of the production, availability and the suitability of the mashgiach. Different mashgichim have different areas of expertise and this will be taken into consideration.
A: A mashgiach bears a heavy burden. He must be aware that not only is he an ambassador for the Kashrus agency hat he represents, but he may well be the first Jewish person that the work-force has met. This is often the case when productions take place in countries without an indigenous Jewish population. It is therefore essential that the mashgiach is punctual, courteous, neatly attired and friendly. This not only helps to make a Kiddush Hashem but also ensures that what the mashgiach stands for, namely, the highest standards of kashrus, is respected.
A: Simply put, he has the duty of ensuring total compliance with all practices and procedures that have been agreed between the Beis Din and the company. This will mean that all ingredients to be used must tally with those approved, that the product is produced on the equipment and in the manner specified and that all packaging and labelling takes place as agreed. Often, it will be necessary for a mashgiach to ask for technical information such as temperature settings to ensure compliance with the agreed methods. Similarly, it is sometimes essential that the mashgiach takes notes of batch numbers and of quantities manufactured, especially when a batch production is taking place. Finally, it is often helpful if the mashgiach takes the opportunity to discuss any future plans as this demonstrates an interest in the company and enhances relationships. Equally this information can be important to the Beis Din and impact on its future dealings with the company.
A: It is important to be aware that a mashgiach is not a posek nor would one want him to be. If a mashgiach meets with a problem he is expected to call a member of the Beis Din in order to obtain guidance. He should also notify the production manager that a problem has arisen as sometimes this will require the production to be halted.
A: Every mashgiach must send into the Beis Din a written report. Without this no payment will be authorised. Apart from reporting on what was experienced, the Beis Din will welcome recommendations and suggestions.
The Accounts Department will check all the financial details submitted by the Mashgiach. This will normally include details of expenses as well as the time involved. The Beis Din operates a policy aimed at ensuring that a mashgiach has no financial dealing with the company thereby ensuring total objectivity. There is no guarantee that having worked at one plant that one will be chosen to work there again and therefore the mashgiach will not be tempted to protect his own future interests.
I hope that this will have enabled my readers to gain an insight into the procedures that we adopt to ensure the highest standards of kashrus. We are acutely aware that, we at Manchester Beis Din, are walking in the footsteps of Gedoilai Torah including Dayan Y.Y. ztl. the Baal Minchas Yitzchok and that we have a hard-earned reputation to maintain. We are also mindful of the fact that we have a heavy responsibility to the kosher consumer who trusts our Beis Din and its hechsher. The consumer is entitled to feel confident and to assume that the product has been produced to the highest standards without making use of any bedieveds or leniencies and it is according to this ethos that the Beth Din operates. We have, as a result, been able to achieve a position in the Kashrus world where the public appreciate that the MK logo represents a mehadrin standard which is reliable and trustworthy. The Manchester Beis Din is proud of the number of companies who have entrusted them with their kashrus approval and sees the steady flow of new companies seeking its hechsher as a testimony to its efficiency and standing in the Community. However, care is taken not to be swept up in an unrelenting chase of new companies. The Beth Din often turns down opportunities to grant a hechsher if the standard under which it operates would not be maintained.
Finally, it is essential for a Kashrus Body to operate in a transparent fashion. Manchester Beis Din, therefore, welcomes comments and questions both from companies within the food industry as well as from kosher consumers. Readers too are welcome contact the Manchester Beis Din should they require further information or clarification.