Dear Reb Yitzchok
Thanks for sending me the article.
You mentioned that you were unsure as to the standards employed by ‘Sydney Kashrus’ (The Kashrut Authority). I will do my best to clarify for you our position as follows:
We basically have three levels.
- The first level are certified products such as Teal Lake wine , Jenbray Tuna, cholov yisroel dairy products etc, made to a standard similar to that of such bodies as the Eida Chareidis . Any difficult shailois in this regard I ask HoRav HaGaon R’ Yakov Blau Shlit”a of the Eida with whom I have done a lot of work over the years.
- Then there are certified products made to the OK and OU standard. This may include dairy products that are not cholov yisroel. All of our certified products are to that standard as a minimum. I have a very close working relationship with the OU and the OK and with both Rav Belsky Shlit”a and Rav Shachter Shlit”a. It should be noted that all our licensed facilities including caterers follow that same standard as a minimum.
- We have a third level (a level that does not exist in the USA).These are what we call “approved” products manufactured by non-jews. I have wriiten an article explaining the halachic rationale and resultant differences and you can find it on our website www.ka.org.au in the halachic policies section. It is in relation to this “level” that we indeed follow the London Beth Din, The Manchester Beth Din, The Johannesburg Beth Din, and all who list “approved” products.
Many might be tempted to say that the approved products are ‘less kosher’ than certified products – such a statement is in my opinion wrong. The reality is that they fall under a different halachic paradigm.
An analogy to illustrate: It is without question forbidden to add a drop of milk to chicken soup. If one did so on purpose one would not be permitted to eat the soup. However, if it fell in by accident, and was botul b’shishim, the Halocho is that one is permitted to eat the soup. Two apparently identical occurrences, yet there are two opposite outcomes. The reason for this is that we are dealing with two completely different paradigms – the meizid (purposeful intent) paradigm and the shogeg (unintentional/accidental) paradigm.
Similarly there are two distinct paradigms in relation to kosher foods. The certification paradigm, when a company comes to you, pays you for your services and markets to Jews; and the approval paradigm, where you initiate the visit to the company, you are not paid by them and they are not specifically interested in the Kosher market. The OU/OK, etc ONLY deal with the first paradigm. This is largely because of the size of the kosher market and the Jewish population of the USA. There are sufficient certified products so it is not necessary to have approvals. Furthermore, halachically, as companies are specifically marketing for the Kosher consumers it may not be possible to employ the approval paradigm. However jn other countries, such as the UK and Australia, there are insufficient products and the relative size of our kosher consuming market enables us to employ the approval paradigm.
Products manufactured at level 1 or 2 are all marked K or C in our directory. They are all formally certified or made to that standard and are colloquially called “mehadrin”. [Though some would argue as to whether a chalav-stam product – albeit certified to OU/OK standard – should be called “mehadrin”]. Products that are level 3 or “approved” are listed without notation. The consumer has the choice to be mehader or not, and we are transparent with the information we provide allowing them that choice. We believe that this way we maximise the opportunities for people to keep kosher.
Kosher Australia has announced that it is moving to only use the certification paradigm. That is their choice, which should be respected by those under their jurisdiction. The rabbis of the Kashrut Authority (comprising the rabbis of The Sydney Beth Din and the Yeshiva Rabbinate here in NSW) are of the view that it is still necessary to retain the approvals paradigm. We feel it would be both erroneous and onerous of us to impose on the general kosher consumer the stringency of only eating certified products when the approved products are 100% kosher l’chatchila. See Tur Orach Chaim Siman 110 , where we are instructed to pray upon entry to the Beis HaMidrash that “I do not err in a matter of halacha … and pronounce on … that which is permitted that it is forbidden”. If the consumer wishes to eat only ‘mehadrin’ products that is the consumer’s choice but not a Halachic necessity.
Simply put, the availability and cost of Kosher here in Australia cannot be compared to that in the USA. Only listing certified products would place an added burden on the kosher consumer; and could cause those who are on the periphery of keeping kosher to turn away from kashrus observance. Of course, if it was halachically unacceptable to list approved products then the above rationale would bear no weight – the fact however is that the approved products are kosher l’chatchila to be consumed. It is on that basis that we have left the choice in the hands of the consumer whether to be mehader or not.
I hope this clarifies the issues from our perspective.
All the best
Rabbi Moshe D Gutnick
The Kashrut Authority
Kosher Certification in Australia New Zealand
and the Asia Pacific
Rabbi Gutnick asked me to preserve formatting. Just in case, I have included a PDF of the Sydney KA Response