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What is Kosher?
   
The word kosher means proper or acceptable, and it has informally entered the English language with that meaning. But kosher laws have their origin in the Bible, and are detailed in the Talmud and the other codes of Jewish traditions. They have been applied through the centuries to ever-changing situations, and these rulings, both ancient and modern, govern OU Kosher certification.

You may already be familiar with some of the more well-known requirements, but you may be surprised at the extent of the regulations with which you are not familiar.

The Bible lists the basic categories of food items which are not kosher. These include certain animals, fowl and fish (such as pork and rabbit, eagle and owl, catfish and sturgeon), and any shellfish, insect or reptile. In addition, kosher species of meat and fowl must be slaughtered in a prescribed manner, and meat and dairy products may not be manufactured or consumed together.

Why do so many foods require kosher supervision? For example, shouldn’t cereals and potato chips be inherently kosher since they are not made from meat, fowl, fish or insects? The answer is that all units and subunits in a food item must be kosher as well. Thus, for example, a cereal may be non-kosher because it contains a flavoring, which in turn contains civet, a flavor enhancer extracted from an African cat-like mammal. Potato chips can be non-kosher if the vegetable oil used in the fryer has been pasteurized and deodorized on equipment used for tallow production. In fact, equipment used for hot production of non-kosher products may not be used for kosher production without kosherization (a hot purging procedure).


Don’t Forget to Take Your Vitamins – Don’t Worry, They’re Kosher

By: Bayla Sheva Brenner

A growing number of Americans across the country are becoming more health conscious and their shopping carts are showing it – packed with organic produce; soy franks and burgers; spelt bread and pretzels; and a variety of vitamins and herb products.Today’s national supermarket chains are responding to this wholesome trend, featuring an expanding vitamin and herb section with multiple shelves of every combination, brand and potency. Thanks to the foresight and business acumen of a number of major vitamin companies, more and more kosher customers are frequenting these supplement sections, happily perusing an assortment of OU kosher brands.Words like antioxidant, ginkgo biloba, and glucosamine have made it into the kosher community’s vernacular, kitchen cabinets and daily nutritional regimen.

Since vitamins are considered diet enhancers, meant to supplement the nutritional deficiencies in processed food; they are considered food and, as such, require kosher certification. Many of the vitamins on the market come in gelatin capsules, commonly derived from non-kosher sources and are off limits to the kosher consumer. Aside from the issue of gelatin in the gel cap, vitamins may also contain non-kosher ingredients.

As more kosher consumers become cognizant of the need for kosher certification on vitamins, both brand name and generic vitamin companies are responding to the need – and profiting from the initiative.

THE PIONEERS IN KOSHER VITAMINS

The advent of kosher vitamins on American store shelves came about through the insight and ingenuity of a family-run “Mom and Pop” pharmacy in mid-town Manhattan. Abraham Freeda, a druggist who founded Freeda Vitamins in 1928, led the way for the burgeoning kosher vitamin industry as one of its first producers and sellers, “My parents (Freeda’s daughter and son-in-law), being very innovative, decided to formulate their own nutrients,” says Phillip Zimmerman, Ph.D., current chief chemist at Freeda Vitamins.“They bought a tablet machine and started manufacturing vitamins.” The Freedas and Zimmermans chose OU kosher certification for their new products. “The OU was and still is the name of the game,” says Dr. Zimmerman. “The gold standard.”

Over seven decades later, Freeda Vitamins are sold throughout the United States and also enjoy distribution in Israel and Holland. The family prides itself on being the first kosher vitamin company and the only vitamin company in the world that provides an extra tablet in every bottle – to cover the possibility of machine miscount.

By the 1970’s, America was in the midst of an explosion of research into the impact of nutrition on personal health. “You are what you eat” became the common catch phrase and health food stores sprouted up in towns and cities across the country.

In 1974, Jack Friedman, Ph.D., founder of Maxi-Health Research Inc, opened up a small health food store in Brooklyn with the goal of developing sophisticated vitamin products for the kosher community. He worked together with physicians to create kosher vitamin and herb formulas that would address particular ailments. Over three decades later, the company currently provides a variety of one hundred and fifty nutritional supplements. “Maxi-Health keeps updated on the latest in nutritional research and continues to get the highest quality products out there for the Jewish community,” says Dr. Friedman. “One can get Co Enzyme Q from China for a tenth the price of the Japanese product, which is of much higher quality, but we aren’t interested in poor quality.”

Ninety-five percent of the Maxi-Health line is under OU Kosher certification. “We went to the OU because they were the biggest; they were the most well known,” he says. “Many of our products come from different areas of the world and the OU personnel cover the globe; it made it a lot easier for us. We were also very satisfied with their knowledge about nutrition. We have many non-kosher clientele who look for the OU certification. They feel it is a purer product and monitored more carefully.”

Dr. Friedman, who holds a doctorate in nutrition, receives over one hundred phone calls a day from health-conscious consumers around the world seeking advice on how to treat various physiological conditions. “More than half of the problems, really more, start with poor nutrition and lack of knowledge,” says Dr. Friedman. “People don’t realize that one cup of soda has seven teaspoons of sugar and how unhealthy hydrogenated fat is. They don’t even realize that they are eating poorly. Today’s foods are depleted of nutrients, hence, the need for supplements.”

He cautions that many are unaware that many vitamins on the market are not kosher. “There are not only non-kosher nutrients, but also non-kosher bindings and fillers,” he says. “We were the first to come out with the maxi-caps, a kosher capsule.” He reports that both doctors and chiropractors recommend Maxi-Health products to their patients.

Another kosher vitamin pioneer concerned about the dearth of available kosher nutritional supplements on the market, Hyman Landau, president of Lantev Distributing Corporation, which distributes Landau Natural Foods and Vitamins, opened up a health food store in the Boro Park section of Brooklyn in 1981.“Customers were requesting certain items that were not available in kosher form,” says Landau. He decided to develop items on his own private label. Lantev distributes to New York City’s five boroughs, the country’s smaller kosher communities, as well as internationally “The vitamins were very well received, especially the chewables for children.”

Mr. Landau came out with specialty items such as a more advanced pareve formula of acidophilus and chewable B12s. Like Dr. Friedman, he is not looking to cut corners in order to save money if it means compromising on quality. “A lot of companies use animal-based stearates, which are less expensive; we use the kosher vegetarian base,” he says. Lantev chose OU certification for its products in response to customers’ preferences. “We’ve seen profit from the decision,” says Landau.“The customers are happy as well as steady.”

Now, don’t forget to take your (OU kosher) vitamins!

The above was taken with permission from www.oukosher.org
 


The following books are some excellent references for questions and idea.


   
   
   
   




 
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