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What is Kosher?

Food is considered to be kosher if it is prepared in accordance with Jewish dietary laws. Some of these laws include: Animals must have cloven hooves and chew their cud. Cows, goats and sheep are kosher; horses and pigs are not; Fish must have scales and fins; Food must be butchered and prepared in accordance with Jewish law; All blood must be drained from the meat or broiled out of it; Utensils that have come into contact with non-kosher food may not be used with kosher food.

While you may already be familiar with the aforementioned requirements, you may be surprised at the extent of kosher regulations.

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 has raisins which are coated with a non-Kosher, animal-based glycerin. 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).

Can anybody produce a product and label it “kosher?” Yes, and the “K” symbol, indicating “kosher,” appears on numerous products. Anyone—a home-cook, for example—can claim the product has been made in a kosher kitchen from kosher ingredients, adhering to all rules. But this symbol carries little weight with observant Jews. That’s because there has been no supervision by a kosher-certifying agency.

In interpreting ancient dietary laws and adapting them to modern times, ingredients and processes, different rabbis have different opinions about what is kosher, or what is a kosher environment.

here are close to 400 kosher certifiers worldwide.

Kosher equals Healthy:

55% of America's kosher food consumers buy kosher products because they believe kosher food is healthier.

Kosher foods are perceived to be a better quality, often using all natural ingredients, and are frequently organic.

With an overall increased awareness of food safety and preparation procedures, many health-conscious people prefer kosher products.

The Kosher Market:

Consumers spent approximately $165 billion for kosher products in 2003, according to data compiled by Integrated Marketing Communications. In comparison, they spent $250 million on kosher products 25 years earlier.

In 2005, 40% of US grocery sales were certified kosher, according to the Bureau of Census

The kosher food market is enjoying an annual growth of approximately 15%. In comparison, non-kosher food sales in American supermarkets are growing at approximately 4 percent a year.

There are more than 100,000 kosher certified products today. Approximately 3,000 new products are introduced into the kosher market each year.

The average number of kosher products in American supermarkets is 17,000.

There are over 10,000 kosher producing companies today.

Of the 10.5 million Americans who eat kosher products, only 20 percent are Jewish.

Kosher is not just “ethnic” food. Beyond gefilte fish and matzo ball mix, meats and poultry, kosher products exist in every segment of the food industry from to processed foods and drinks to cereal and condiments.

The annual New York kosher food exposition, Kosherfest, attracts an estimated 10,000 visitors and 500 exhibitors representing companies from 29 countries and 40 U.S. states.

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