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Thomas R. Cutler

Quality Insider

Food Safety and Quality

Kosher and halal standards

Published: Monday, April 23, 2007 - 22:00

Food quality and safety are priorities for consumers, and from Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) to the Bioterrorism Act to lot traceability, food manufacturers are responding. Reputations and brands are at risk when safety concerns and product recalls are front-page news. There are many recent examples from spinach to pet food; the cost of low quality can be brand-killing.

As the Jewish population continues to decrease, kosher foods are migrating into the mainstream. According to a recent Mintel report on kosher foods, more than 55 percent of respondents who buy them feel that kosher products meet a higher standard of safety and health than nonkosher items.

Although different religious practices guide the diets of Jews and Muslims, the high-quality standards applied to kosher and halal foods are remarkably similar.

Kosher food products

Many people have turned to kosher—fit to eat according to Jewish dietary laws—products to assure themselves that their food is healthier and of better quality. This health consciousness isn’t driven by religious practices. To help ensure the safety of kosher food, the Orthodox Union (OU) and SGS provide services that ensure that safety and quality management standards are met, and that production steps and ingredients comply with kosher requirements. By combining kosher certification with food-safety certification, many food manufacturers are finding new markets and demonstrating an ongoing commitment to producing safe food that meets the highest quality standards.

Twenty-eight percent of the U.S. population purchases kosher products, and kosher food is becoming more popular with health-conscious consumers, vegetarians, vegans and many people with food allergies, such as lactose intolerance. Companies such as General Mills, Nestle, Coca-Cola and Nabisco produce kosher products to provide choice to this growing group of consumers.

Many organizations looking for kosher certification choose the OU because of its good reputation as a certifier of kosher products. SGS is an innovator in inspection, verification, testing and certification services, and it operates a network of almost 1,000 offices and laboratories around the world. Kosher food auditors are qualified to inspect food safety management systems against domestic and international standards to help organizations focus on the hazards that affect food safety and food hygiene through production process.

Most food manufacturers that produce primary, semiprocessed and finished products in all principal food segments can apply kosher and food safety standards to their operations. These include meat, seafood, dairy, fruits and vegetables, as well as bread, beverages and meals. Combining kosher laws and food safety certification programs creates a simple and convenient way to get products and production management systems certified as both safe and kosher.

According to Gene Van Horne, director of operations for All American Seasonings, “Food safety and quality assurance were critical elements in our technology selection. From HACCP-certified, Food and Drug Administration–compliant, AIB- and Guardian-inspected, allergen-controlled, and kosher-approved by The Scroll K/Vaad Hakashrus of Denver, we needed the operational software to have the ability to be tailored to our specific requirements and established procedures. We also required support for sample request management, allergen management, nutritional labeling and real-time inventory information, as well as an easy interface to external systems, including accounting and importation of FDA databases. We chose BatchMaster Food enterprise resource planning [software] because of its demonstrated success in the food sector and the company’s vision for future releases.”

Food allergies drive kosher and halal selections

Food allergies and sensitivities affect one-third of all Americans, and kosher foods’ clear labeling makes it easy for consumers to find dairy- and meat-free products. The U.S. Jewish population is shrinking while the Muslim population is growing, which ironically is rejuvenating the kosher market, because the dietary restrictions for Muslims are similar to those for Jews.

Halal food products

Halal food products—those complying with Islamic dietary rules—represent an $80 billion world market in 2007. For meat to be halal, an animal has to be slaughtered in a ritual way known as Zibah. Halal is like kosher in that it requires animals to be healthy at the time of slaughter, because carrion is forbidden. In addition, the animal’s jugular vein, carotid artery and windpipe have to be severed by a razor-sharp knife in a single swipe, so as to cause as little pain as possible. The difference is that a rabbi will read from the kashruth, and a Muslim will recite tanmiya.

ISO 22000 and quality

ISO 22000 is the newest international standard for food safety management systems and requires a rigorous ISO audit to confirm eligibility. ISO 22000 emphasizes communication, systems management, prerequisite programs and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s HACCP principles to ensure complete food safety along the food chain. Manufacturing facilities must be structured to dynamically integrate quality and food safety management programs, assuring the ability to produce high-quality, safe products.

According BatchMaster’s vice president, Preston Blevins, “Technology solutions must help food manufacturers achieve ISO 22000 certification. The combination of kosher and halal qualifications, as well as ISO 22000, allows food manufacturers to keep a higher commitment to quality.”

Kosher and halal foods were once relegated to the devout, and that is no longer the case. While peace in the Middle East may not result from consuming these similar food products, the highest standards of food safety and quality will.


About The Author

Thomas R. Cutler’s picture

Thomas R. Cutler

Thomas R. Cutler is the President & CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based, TR Cutler, Inc., (www.trcutlerinc.com) Cutler is the founder of the Manufacturing Media Consortium including more than 6000 journalists, editors, and economists writing about trends in manufacturing, industry, material handling, and process improvement. Cutler authors more than 500 feature articles annually regarding the manufacturing sector and is the most published freelance industrial journalist worldwide. Cutler can be contacted at trcutler@trcutlerinc.com and followed on Twitter @ThomasRCutler.