What is Kosher ?

Kosher Certification originates in the Hebrew word “Kasher” or “Kosher” which means pure and suitable for human consumption. Kosher foods must comply with kashrut rules as laid down in the Torah. KOSHER foods fall into various categories such as par-eve, dairy and animal products.

The word kosher means proper or acceptable, and it has informally entered the English language with that meaning. But kosher laws have their origin in the Bible, and are detailed in the Talmud and the other codes of Jewish traditions. They have been applied through the centuries to ever-changing situations, and these rulings, both ancient and modern, govern OU kosher certification.

Only meat that is derived from animals that have split hooves and chew cud is permissible under KOSHER and this includes cows, sheep and goats. Birds may be consumed but only chicken, ducks, geese and turkey. All such animals must be slaughtered in the prescribed way under the supervision of a Schochet who is trained in KOSHER rituals. Thereafter the veins and blood must be removed by soaking in water and rubbing with salt only after which it is declared fit for consumption. Even utensils that are used in slaughter, cleaning and preparation must be KOSHER Certification and specifically designated for the purpose. Kosher does not permit the mixing of animal and dairy products and utensils for both must be kept separate.


You may already be familiar with some of the more well-known requirements for kosher, but you may be surprised at the extent of the regulations with which you are not familiar.

What Foods are Not Kosher?

The Bible lists the basic categories of food items which are not kosher. These include certain animals, fowl and fish (such as pork and rabbit, eagle and owl, catfish and sturgeon), most insects, and any shellfish or reptile. In addition, kosher species of meat and fowl must be slaughtered in a prescribed manner, and meat and dairy products may not be manufactured or consumed together.

Why Kosher Supervision?

Why do so many foods require kosher supervision? What makes food non kosher? Are all products made from Kosher Ingredients Kosher? For example, since cereals and potato chips are not made from meat, fowl, fish or insects aren’t they inherently kosher?

The answer is that for a food to be kosher all units and subunits 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 refined 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).
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What Does Kosher Certified Mean?

Kosher Certification is the stamp of kosher approval by a rabbinic Agency verifying they have checked the products ingredients, production facility and actual production to ensure all ingredients, derivatives, tools and machinery have no trace of non kosher substances. The Kosher Certified symbol assures consumers that both the actual product and its production adhere to all Kosher Law requirements.

Getting OU Kosher certification begins with the Kosher Certification Application.

Kosher Certification Basics

Understanding the OU Kosher Certification Process

To be certified Kosher to orthodox standards, every ingredient of a product and the way in which it is processed must be kosher compliant. Below is the initial process that takes place and then for ongoing kosher supervision to ensure kosher law adherence for every product, company or plant that applies to become kosher certified by OU kosher - the world's largest Kosher Certifying Agency.


Establishing a listing of kosher ingredients that are acceptable for use in your product for which you are seeking kosher certification. This list is known as Schedule A. The OU‘s Ingredient Approval Registry staff carefully review and research all ingredient issues, utilizing the database registry of over 200,000 ingredients that have already been approved. Should it be necessary for a company to change or modify sources of supply for raw materials, locating a new source can usually be done very expeditiously through this extensive database.


Establishing the list of brand names and specific products that will be authorized to bear the symbol. This list is known as Schedule B. The Schedule B also indicates whether a product must bear a simple symbol (indicating that it is pareve, i.e., containing no meat or milk ingredients), a "D" (dairy), or a "P" (Kosher for use on Passover as well as all year round).


Establishing any special instructions that relate to the use of equipment, which is necessary if a plant engages in both kosher and non-kosher production, or both dairy and pareve production. These instructions may contain kosherization requirements, and/or stipulations for segregation of production lines.


Assigning a Rabbinic Field Representative to visit the certified plant at intermittent intervals, to verify that the Schedule A, Schedule B and special instructions are adhered to.


A Rabbinic Coordinator (account executive) will be assigned to handle your application. This RC will be your designated point person at the OU, and will be available to answer your questions, address your needs, and guide you through the certification process and continue to assist you as questions or concerns arise.

Kosher Certification Policy

The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (the "Orthodox Union") is the sole and exclusive owner of the certification mark, a federally and internationally registered trademark for kosher certification. It may only be used with the express written permission of the Orthodox Union Kosher Division.

Products are endorsed as kosher only when bearing the OU emblem on the label. Consumers are directed to check the ingredient panel of products on a regular basis for changes in the Kosher status that may occur as a result of reformulation.

Kosher updates appear regularly on this site and in the News Reporter section of the Orthodox Union publication Jewish Action. Kosher for Passover products under OU supervision are published annually in the Kosher Directory Passover Edition.

OU Kosher Certification Symbols for Pareve, Dairy and Meat Categorizations

The products are Pareve (contain neither milk or meat ingredients). OU Pareve may contain fish or eggs.

The products are Dairy. These products either contain dairy ingredients or have been processed on dairy equipment.

The products are Meat/Poultry. Alternatively, they may contain meat/poultry ingredients or have been processed on meat equipment.


Confidentiality Statement for OU Kosher Certification

The OU observes the strictest levels of confidentiality throughout the kosher certification process. We are extremely sensitive to the needs of our certified companies and respect the proprietary nature of manufacturers’ confidential information and trade secrets.

The OU requires disclosure of some proprietary information because the kosher certification process insists that we are aware of all the ingredients, all the equipment, and all of the processes, used in the plant that we certify as kosher.

It is natural that you may have concerns about sharing your confidential processes and procedures regarding products produced at your factory with the OU.

The OU’s reputation for integrity and the willingness of thousands of companies to allow us access to this information should further reassure you that we will not violate your trust. Please be assured that all of the information you provide us will be held in strict confidence. In fact, our promise of confidentiality is clearly stated in all of our certification agreements.

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