New York- The number of countries that produce kosher certified products has grown to 104, according to kashrus sources. The Orthodox Union (OU) operates in all of these countries and significantly now includes the Gulf states of Dubai and Saudi Arabia. In addition to the OU, agencies like the OK and Star-K are also major certifiers around the world, including a growing presence in the Pacific. Kashrus sources estimate that nearly 1500 mashgichim (kashrus supervisors) oversee the production of kosher products around the world with nearly 1,000 working for the OU, according to Rabbi Moshe Elefant, COO of the OU Kashrus Division. The major source of mashgichim is Chabad emissaries stationed around the world. It is not uncommon for some of the mashgichim to work for more than one agency. One rabbi told Kosher Today that he works for two national agencies as well as the local Vaad.
The addition of Dubai and Saudi Arabia by the OU is a reflection of the changing geopolitical situation where these countries have warmed considerably to Israel as a result of their confronting a common enemy, Iran. Many of the countries that now produce kosher are anxious to penetrate markets in the US and Europe but are faced with the reality that so many of these markets require kosher certification. In the US, for example, many of the larger companies are kosher certified and cannot use ingredients that are not kosher. Another motif for many of the countries is to do business with Israel and its growing food industry.