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Kosher Korner: Housekeeping in the kosher industry
Since my start with Kosher Australia over a year ago, I have visited many factories to see if they can be kosher certified or re-certified. One aspect of an audit is checking the cleaning processes. Sometimes I feel that as there are so many regulations, like hallel, organic... the company is usually subject to that getting kosher re-certified would be one of the easier processes. Don't we all wash with a detergent, hot water and put our pots and pans clean away in the cabinet? It is self understood that everything should be spotless and clean before production begins as this involves the basic notion of food hygiene.
However, it seems that this is not always the case. A few months ago I went along to a company seeking kosher certification for the first time. Before my appointment we spoke on the phone and I asked them some standard questions including if their equipment gets cleaned. The man on the other end replied, "Of course Rabbi. We clean everything. We perform micro bacterial tests twice daily and we meet the highest standards, including the requirements of that 'global well known food manufacturer.'"
So when I arrived at 4am on Monday morning to perform the kashering, I was quite surprised to find food remaining obvious and visible on the equipment from before the weekend. Despite all the food hygiene and other certificates, the equipment was not cleaned to the level I was used to in the facilities I usually visit. It seemed, that I as the kosher supervisor had to go through some basic "housekeeping" notions!
Another interesting aspect that I have encountered during my factory audits is good "housekeeping" of the information relating to kosher certification. To manage 10 ingredients and 2 products is not that difficult, however, hundreds of ingredients and products is another story. Recently, I visited a very large manufacturer and I was very impressed how well they were organised. This company had manufacturing locations all over the world and they sourced all their ingredients in all of their products through a global purchasing department. One of their goals is to make sure each ingredient has kosher certification and they achieve this by managing all their information through a SAP computer system where everything is controlled in all of its minute details. This really shows their commitment to keep kosher. Today, I discussed with another large company how to improve their kosher management systems and G-d willing, we will achieve to have all the information up-to-date at all times. I enjoy my role helping companies implement good "housekeeping" tactics!