In today’s world of frequent travel, when many of us travel for vacation purposes or for business meetings and conferences, it’s nice to know that kosher food is often available when we fly on airlines or go by train. Major cities around the world host airline kitchens that are certified by reputable kosher organizations. Some of these include Hermolis-London, Borenstein-New York, Hamasbia-Israel, Shalom Caterer-Switzerland, and Gate Gourmet-Canada.
Travellers usually have a lot of extra time on their hands, and thus pay more attention to the taste of the food, as well as the presentation, when they eat their meals while flying. While these high-quality airline meals are very convenient for the kosher traveller, it’s important to keep an eye open for certain possibilities, as described below.
Kosher meals are routinely reheated in non-kosher ovens in the galleys of airplanes. For kashrut purposes, these meals must be wrapped in two layers and sealed with kashrut tape, indicating that the items are under kosher supervision. The tray with the cold items, which usually include foods like juice, rolls or salad, must also be wrapped in plastic and sealed with kosher tape. In economy class, the cutlery on the tray is usually made of plastic and is disposable.
A similar situation may arise when a kosher consumer attends a conference in a non-kosher venue where special kosher meals have been ordered on his behalf. The meals, especially in most elegant hotels, often come prepared on new plates, with new cutlery, which are not returned to the kosher establishment. The kosher consumer should ensure at the outset of the event that the food is sealed when it is received and remains doubly sealed if warmed up in the oven of the venue. Without the seals, these food items should not be used at all.
Although kosher agencies like the Canadian kosher certifier MK, take great care to ensure that the meals produced in airline kitchens are made under the highest levels of kashrut, we are not able to supervise the food in the air or in non-kosher venues. While we do provide clear regulations that the seals on kosher food must remain intact until it is served to the consumer, we are ultimately at the mercy of those who may not be sensitive to the laws of kashrut. Airline personnel and others handling kosher meals are made aware of basic kosher regulations, but it has happened on more than one occasion that a stewardess served a kosher meat casserole on a non-kosher cold tray to a kosher consumer. It’s up to the kosher traveller to remain vigilant about possible errors. If a meal looks tampered with in any way, or is not sealed as described above, it should not be eaten.
Let’s continue to keep kosher, even when flying high.