When we say that something “isn’t kosher,” we often use it in a way which implies that there is an unsavory quality to something. But for strictly observant Jews, the matter of whether or not a product is kosher is less of an abstract statement, and more of a concrete fact; every aspect of food production must be properly inspected and maintained for a food to be considered kosher under dietary laws that have been followed for centuries.
There are an estimated 14 million Jews throughout the world, many of whom depend on kosher food to stay within their faith’s guidelines. In addition, there are many other consumers who buy kosher foods. The demand in the United States alone is sizable; expected to top out at roughly $15 billion by the end of the year, kosher products such as prepared foods, meats, and dairy are a market force that leads to many companies looking to receive kosher certification. If a business is currently lacking in the right qualifications for the kosher seal, then construction services may be required to build new tanks, new piping systems, and even brand new assembly lines.
The investment could be well worth it. A growing population, combined with a younger generation that’s hungry for foods of convenience without compromising their religious beliefs, all create the perfect storm for companies that want to get in on the kosher foods market. It has fallen to the food production industry to meet this demand, and the industrial sectors responsible for modern food production have risen to meet these needs.
And often it all comes down to a single man. A mashgiach is a specially trained inspector – sometimes an actual rabbi – responsible for certification. Mashgichim are sent by certifying authorities to inspect food production facilities – often daily. Process piping and other parts of food production must be inspected, cleaned, and maintained according to stringent standards – and they only get more strict for Passover certification.
Inspecting the equipment that is used in industrial food production is no small task. On any given day it may require the mashgiach to climb into industrial food storage tanks, verify the past usage of each piece of equipment, or analyze countless pages of ingredient listings for every product. Every part of the food’s “life” must be scrutinized to get the kosher stamp of approval, including the pipes that carry water and other products. The equipment must be cleaned using approved cleaning agents, and there must be no mixing of non-kosher products within the same pipes. Process piping is a major link in the food production chain, but the kosher seal of approval from a certifying authority makes this extra effort worthwhile for many companies.
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