February 3, 2009

Kashrus Agencies Meet Soaring Demand for Kosher Organic Foods

New York…Kashrus agencies are paying increased attention to the growing demand by consumers for both kosher and organic certifications on the same label. Last week, the Orthodox Union (OU) announced that it will recommend Organic National & International Certifiers (ON & IC) of Lincolnwood, IL to its client companies who are seeking certification that their products are not only kosher, but organic as well. The Star-K kosher certification agency had earlier announced a new joint kosher and organic auditing program with Quality Assurance International (QAI). A number of Star-K inspectors are now trained organic processing inspectors, allowing both the kosher and organic audits to be completed in one visit. A year ago, Sam Cuenca-Meschoulam mentioned his disappointment in the lack of healthy and organic kosher food to Rabbi Berel Simpser, Executive Director for Aish Hatorah in Minnesota. Simpser, who had also worked extensively in the kashrus industry, responded that there should be a hechsher (kosher certification) to address the issue. With that exchange, Cuenca-Meschoulam and Simpser’s partnership was born. Four months later their hechsher, Kosher Organics, launched its certification and website. Kosher Organics guarantees the strictest level of kashrus and that its products are either certified organic or 100% natural. Its “Blue K” symbol accompanies natural products, which describes foods to which nothing artificial (additives, preservatives, etc.) has been added. The “Green K” symbol adorns organic products, which is similar to natural but additionally means that all items were raised without the use of fertilizers, additives, insecticides, etc. Cuenca-Meschoulam sees the ideals of natural and organic consumption to be in line with traditional Torah values. Kosher Organics is driven by concern for nature just as the Torah demonstrates concern for the land via the laws of shmitta (which mandates leaving the land fallow every seven years) and kila’im (which governs which crops can be grown in close proximity). “We should be aware of how important it is to be doing the best for our bodies and for the Earth,” said Cuenca-Meschoulam.