November 16, 2009

European Kosher Agencies Weaning Kosher Consumers off ÒApproved ListsÓ

London…The recent conference on kashrus that took place in Brussels included many European kosher certification agencies that have in recent years dramatically increased the number of products that they certify. Kashrus officials in Europe say that they have “begin to wean consumers off of the old system of approved products that are not necessarily kosher certified.” For the past few years, the Kashruth Division of the London Beth Din, the KLBD, has exhibited at Kosherfest and each year its listing of kosher certifications in the UK and throughout Europe continues to grow. A major addition in recent years has been kosher certifications in countries of the former Soviet Union. The KLBD presence at Kosherfest, say European rabbis, is a reflection of the growth and development of kosher consumption and accessibility throughout Europe, at large. Europe’s Jewish communities have never quite matched the “kosher revolution” in the US where more than 120,000 end user items are certified kosher. But officials say that Europe is beginning to rely more and more on “homegrown” kosher items. Carrefour, a major supermarket chain in France that caters to the kosher market now features nearly half of its kosher products as homegrown, say officials. The same is true for Tesco in the UK, which has also increased its offerings of kosher certified products from the US.

For the past several decades, European kosher consumers have struggled with the supply of both kosher ingredients and on hand mashgichim to supervise production and as a result were relying on a rather primitive system to certify products. European kosher consumers would have to consult “approved lists,” lists of products accepted as kosher, developed by rabbis who visit facilities not to grant supervision, but to determine on an unofficial basis which products meet kosher criteria. This is not the most reliable method because a manufacturer can change ingredients, thereby affecting the kosher status, and go unnoticed. Now that kosher populations in Europe have established themselves, and have had time to grow and advance a new certification system for kosher products is developing. Kosher products with a hechsher displayed on the label, can now be found in Europe as they would be in the United States. Manufacturers are working with already established kosher certification agencies.