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I found out recently that what I had been thinking of as a "food copyright symbol", (U), is actually a statement of kosherness. Now that I know what this is, I'm starting to see different symbols like (K) and K inside a star, that I'm assuming are also kosherness marks.

Why are there different koshers (if that's what these are)?

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3 Answers 3

"Kosher" is a series of laws. But how do we know that a food product complies with these laws? So there are many companies that will go in and certify a food product as complying with the kosher laws. (They'll inspect the factory and ingredients, for example.) Here is a list of some of them.

So a circle-U means that the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America certified this product as kosher. The Star-K means it was certified by a group of rabbis headquartered in Baltimore. Each certifying organization (or individual) has its own symbol.

Some of these certifiers have different standards (often based on different rabbis' interpretations of the kosher laws), and thus some people prefer products with certain certifications. For example, just about any plain-old cow's milk in America could be certified by the OU or cRc, but the Star-K will only certify it if a Jew is regularly observing the milking.

In America there are the "big five" organizations: Star-K, OU, cRc, OK, Kof-K -- who account for a great deal of the kosher market. As one food ingredient goes into another food, they work together and compare standards.

A plain "K" on a product simply means "manufacturer says it's kosher." It could be "we have a reputable certifier checking this but we're not putting their symbol on it"; it could be "this is something so obviously kosher (e.g. plain water) that we don't feel like getting external certification"; or it could be they're using a more-controversial definition of the kosher laws.

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These different symbols belong to different certification agencies. Some are regional agencies for example, the Chicago Rabbinical Council. The CRC will certify food produced in or distributed through the Chicago area.

http://vaadinfo.qwestoffice.net/cRc.jpg

In the very abstruse laws of kosher, there are permitted leniencies for industrial scale food production. Some of these agencies may have slightly different sets of rules and some people (who think they know what they are doing) do not accept certification from every agency. In Israel is is not uncommon to find food certified by several agencies.

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1) Different cities or areas historically set up Kashrus organisations for their areas.

2) In the same area, a different (typically a stricter) standard was required and a second Kashrus organisation was set up to provide this.

3) I believe there have been less elevated reasons for setting up other Kashrus organisations.

For a list of agencies see kashrut.com.

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