VANCOUVER — How safe is your food? That could depend on whether or not is has the Kosher Check certification.
Formerly known as BC Kosher – with its BCK hechsher – the Vancouver-based agency now known as Kosher Check is expanding its requirements for kosher certification to include food safety standards beyond the minimum regulations laid out by Canada’s Food Inspection Agency.
Kosher Check is insisting that present and future clients adhere to advanced food safety protocols such as Canada’s Hazard Awareness Critical Control Points (HACCP), British Retail Consortium standards (BRC), Safe Quality Foods (SQF), the Foundation for Food Safety Certification (FSSC), among others.
“We feel customers have a right to know that their food is safe,” says Rabbi Avraham Feigelstock, who sits on the Vancouver Rabbinical Court.
What’s more, the market is demanding additional levels of food safety inspection, he adds, with Europe being way ahead of North America.
Two to three decades ago, such food safety scrutiny might not have been necessary.
“It used to be when you went into a bakery or butcher shop, the chances of your products having ingredients from China, India or Sri Lanka was low, but today it’s the opposite,” Rabbi Feigelstock says. “The food market has become global, which is good because it brings down the price, but other countries don’t have the same level of food safety that we do. The need for a system to ensure these products are safe is essential.”
Kosher Check is taking the lead in this respect and is the only kosher agency worldwide making this move.
It’s a non-profit that has distinguished itself from other kosher certifying agencies since the mid-1980s, not long after its inception.
In 1985, Rabbi Feigelstock, the organization’s founder and supervising rabbi, began operating in Asia and today has representatives throughout the world and administrative offices in Sri Lanka, Bombay and New Delhi. That makes Kosher Check Canada’s only kosher certification agency that operates internationally in a significant way.
Companies that already have a BCK hechsher are now required to have food safety certification as well, though more than 95 per cent of the companies Kosher Check certifies are already in compliance, he says. Kosher Check certifies some 14,000 products, with 2,000 of them manufactured and certified in Asia.
Obtaining the extra level of food safety certification isn’t necessarily all that complicated for food manufacturers, thanks to Icicle, cloud-based software created by Burton Software in Richmond, B.C. Companies pay to subscribe to the software, enter their ingredient lists and are given data on what they have to do to achieve kosher certification and HACCP certification. The software saves a massive amount of time in the documentation required to obtain HACCP.
What Kosher Check is doing is nothing short of revolutionary, Rabbi Feigelstock says.
“For the first time in history, a customer can know just by looking at a product label that a product is HACCP certified,” he says. “We’re the only agency in the world that is offering customers some kind of certification that tells them, ‘This food is safe.’”
Kosher Check’s 500 customers include Canada Safeway, Rogers Sugar, Garden Protein, Golden Boy Foods and Sunrise Soya. The agency has 20 rabbis worldwide in its employ who supervise kosher food production in Canada, the United States, Chile, China, India, Japan, the Philippines, South Africa and Vietnam.