Posted on May 05, 2017 at 03:56 am


The Kashrut Authority’s Rabbinic Administrator, Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, recently returned from leading The KA’s successful exhibit at Kosherfest (the world’s largest kosher trade show), on behalf of Australian KA-certified companies. In addition, he was honoured to accept an invitation to present at the annual AKO conference (Association of Kosher Organisations).

Over the next three weeks, The KA will feature three essays by Rabbi Gutnick based upon topics explored at AKO:

  1. “Standards for Va’adim re: Licensing Food Service Establishments”. A ‘Va’ad’ is a Kashrut organisation charged with the responsibility of ensuring Kashrut in a town or city.

  2. “Steel used for the Knife of a Shochet from Talmudic Times to the Present”.

  3. “Employment Practices in the Food Industry in the Third World that involve Child Labour” (Rav. Gutnick’s session topic).


Let’s analyse the first topic:

Standards for Va’adim in regard to licensing food service establishments

Whenever I attend one of these global Kashrut conferences, I am always amazed that challenges and their respective solutions are shared universally. One agenda item discussed was the comprehensive standard that kosher licenses only be granted to shops and caterers that solely provide only kosher products. Furthermore, if proprietors are Jewish, shops must close on Shabbat and caterers may not be allowed to break Shabbat.

Here is the rationale:

  1. Generally speaking, a Jew is not permitted to engage in running a non-kosher business, nor is he/she allowed to transgress Shabbat. Licensing a Jewish person to operate a food service establishment which has permission to serve non-kosher and to break Shabbat greatly disadvantages an observant proprietor who only deals with kosher products and who keeps Shabbat. This is not a level playing field. In this instance, a Rabbinate that would grant this licence would give a very confused message to those who keep Shabbat, whilst simultaneously giving financial advantage to those who do not keep Shabbat. As the Talmud states, “Shall the transgressors be allowed to profit?”

  2. One of the most important aspects of kosher supervision is creating an environment that makes it as difficult as possible for a licensee to contravene the laws of Halacha. However, systems should be in place to easily verify an infraction. Several years ago, The KA was forced to permanently cancel a particular caterer’s license. How did we catch them? They were found to have purchased a commercial quantity of non-kosher food and this caterer could not explain the purchase.

    Now had this caterer been permitted to legitimately cater non-kosher, there would have been a significantly higher probability that their misdeed would have gone unpunished. The easy cover story would be to assure its kosher certification agency that the food in question was simply for their treif food lines. A similar incident occurred when a butcher (after being caught purchasing a commercial quantity of non-kosher veal), was unable to explain the purchase. This launched an investigation that led to the cancellation of their licence.

    This is especially the case if kosher and non-kosher products are on the same premises and there is no continuous Mashgiach. With the best of intentions, mix ups can occur. We were once inspecting a bakery which had applied for certification and ostensibly, everything was Pareve. In front of our eyes, one of the workers removed some non-kosher meat from the oven that had been heated up for his personal lunch. Everyone knows and trusts our KA-certified bakeries. What confidence would anyone have if we suddenly allowed them to start serving non-kosher food and permitted baking on Shabbat?

  3. When a kosher caterer is permitted to serve non-kosher, there is an increased risk of Kashrut errors. Approximately two decades ago, before we officially established these rules, The KA licensed a Jewish caterer who catered both kosher and non-kosher. In in the end, we withdrew the license because of inadvertent mix ups. We recognised the futility of heading down this road – we drew on our experience which ended up being reflected in the collective wisdom found also at AKO.

    Furthermore, mix ups can also occur between people. A few years ago a kosher caterer, trying to circumvent our rules, presented The KA with a proposed business road map: a new company division providing non-kosher food was created and (we were told) owned by a non-Jew. We reluctantly examined the idea and plausibility, but divine providence gave us our answer. A kosher consumer ate at a function because they recognised the caterer, only to discover the event was not supervised by The KA. This discovery was enough for us to create a reality check - and to reject their plan.

    The extraordinary reality was that some of the other AKO Va’adim had faced similar challenges over the years and had come to the same conclusions, resulting in similar rules as we had. It was particularly gratifying to realise we had unknowingly travelled the same path and today there was universal unanimity that these were essential standards.

  4. Here is an outline of the exceptions discussed at the meeting:

    1. Some small towns had no caterers or food service establishments dedicated to Kashrut. The Va’ad in that case had no choice but to “kasher” a non Jewish non- kosher caterer for functions. However, all agreed that had there been a kosher dedicated caterer in the town or city, they would not engage in such a practice.

    2. In the case of large (non-Jewish) hotel catering, the following was considered sufficient to mitigate the above concerns. Firstly, the ownership is not Jewish and therefore not obligated to keep Shabbat or Kashrut. Secondly, the event takes place at a single place with its attached kitchen, which is much easier to supervise than a “roaming” caterer. Thirdly, and most importantly, catering at a hotel is run by middle management, employed at a fixed wage. There is absolutely no financial incentive whatsoever for middle management to use non-kosher in a kosher space as they would not gain anything from it. On the contrary, their employment position would most likely be terminated by the hotel.

    3. The Kashrut Authority has allowed a caterer who caters non-kosher a very limited amount of time to transition from non-kosher to fully kosher.

  5. Some may postulate that by licensing Jewish caterers and allowing them to focus on kosher and non-kosher, may allow for less expensive functions and may increase the number of kosher functions. However, that is a spurious argument. There is no evidence that this will lead to less expensive functions. And even if it did – at what cost? People breaking Shabbat? People eating non-kosher? In any moral society, and especially in a Torah society, the ends never justify improper means.

From my own experience and the collective experience of my colleagues, I can say that even with the best of intentions, and even if the licensee is not Jewish, catering kosher and treif by the same licensee simultaneously, is a disaster waiting to happen. And if I was asked I would have to recommend not to eat from such a caterer. In addition, licensing a Jewish caterer or food manufacturer who also operates non-kosher food preparation and breaks Shabbat, as well as posing its own difficulties, would be a Chilul Hashem and it is a slap in the face to Jewish licensees who are dedicated to exclusively cater and provide kosher and who are also observant of Shabbat in their businesses as we require.

In the next installment, I look forward to exploring Part Two of my report from AKO and will examine (G-d willing) the extraordinary history of steel and how it relates to Kashrut.