By Zev Steen
Star-K is one of the only kosher certification organizations with a dedicated customer service department to answer consumer questions. We answer about 350 kosher-related calls each day.
One particularly memorable call came from a woman who was very upset about kosher certification agencies in general. Why, she wanted to know, do we certify foods that are unhealthy? We are causing obesity, diabetes and other food-related illnesses among kosher consumers. She felt that if agencies didn’t certify these “damaging” products, the kosher consumer would lead a happier healthier life.
I have to admit I spent a bit of time pondering this. Is the job of the kosher certification agency to regulate the intake of those who keep kosher, in an attempt to direct everyone to a healthier lifestyle? Or is our job to offer kosher consumers as much variety as possible and let them make their own health decisions? In addition, if our job is to tell people what they can eat – whose health standards do we adopt? One person’s toxin is another person’s lifeline.
I believe the job of the kosher certification agency is to broaden the consumers’ choices – allowing them to tailor a diet to their needs. Sure, this can be abused. Everything can.
By Zev Steen
Here’s an easy game to play; here’s an easy thing to say. - Fox in Socks, Dr. Seuss
While eating fish sticks recently, I noticed something on the food ingredient panel that made me realize what types of games companies can play while still conforming to the letter of the law.
I wondered if fish was really the main ingredient in that brand of fish stick. Taste told me otherwise. To solve the mystery I turned the box over to look at the ingredient panel. By law, ingredients must be listed in order of content amount. The first ingredient, while it may not be the majority of all other ingredients combined, will be greater than each of the following ingredients.
Here is the ingredient panel.
Minced Pollock is the first ingredient. This means there is more fish than any other single ingredient. Then I noticed the second ingredient is Wheat Flour and the fifth ingredient is Enriched Wheat Flour.
While there is more fish than either Wheat Flour or Enriched Wheat Flour, it is very possible there is more flour than fish in the fish stick as a whole. Now, I don’t know if the manufacturer purposely enriched some of the flour so it could be listed separately to allow the fish to be listed first or not, but it does show the kind of game a company can play to bump certain items to the front of the list.