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I assume that the widespread custom of eating/drinking Cholov Stam products (products using milk in which the milking was not observed by a Jew) is relying on the leniency of R' Moshe Feinstein that the government supervision and FDA oversight is enough to assume the kosher status of the milk. If so, why are there some brands of milk that have a hechsher, which is not a Cholov Yisroel hechsher? If you aren't being stringent for Cholov Yisroel and the hechsher is not accomplishing that, what is the purpose of the hechsher?

If the answer is that there is no purpose, is it dishonest of Kashrus agencies to take money for a useless hechsher?

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For one example, the OU's policy is to investigate each company to determine if it is afraid of government oversight in its dairy production and the consequences if it is caught violating the law. If the company does not seem to be concerned about possibly being caught violating the law, the OU will not certify its products. See Halachically Speaking, vol. 5, issue 6, fn. 38. –  Fred May 13 at 3:12
    
@Fred I actually emailed the OU to ask, and got no response. But shouldn't they really be providing an unapproved list, not an approved list? Or am I to assume every milk not under their hechsher is unapproved? –  YeZ May 13 at 3:19
    
I suppose the latter. Based on the link above, it seems that if they investigate a company and are satisfied, then they certify (assuming the company is willing to go through that process with them, as opposed to with another hashgacha or not at all). –  Fred May 13 at 3:47
    
youtube.com/watch?v=gdB6QFjM9AA This might be interesting for you. –  rosenjcb May 13 at 4:25
    
The question could be why isn't any milk with an OU cholov yisroel? But it maybe it is. –  Ariel K May 13 at 20:30

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Yoni is correct, companies ask for kosher certifications for all sorts of reasons. (I know a rabbi who had his phone ringing off the hook from two American sugar companies begging for certification. Neither needed it from the laws of kosher per se, but both were hoping to sell to a confection company that had made a simple blanket rule, "all our suppliers must have kosher certification.") But there are actually other issues (at least in the USA) besides the milk per se. Vitamin D can be synthesized from mineral ingredients, or can be "all natural" from marine creatures. (After-the-fact it would be batel as it's not a flavor or enzyme.) The line could also produce chocolate milk or the like. Most of these problems would likely be batel after the fact, but many prefer to follow the Rashba's opinion that bitul is only relied upon in cases of mistakes.

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Kashrus Agencies are often asked by food and other product companies for certification, even when halachically no certification is required. The companies are told that there is no technical need for certification but many proceed with obtaining certification nonetheless for a variety of reasons: their competition has certification, the belief that the product has a broader appeal to the Jewish market and appeal to other religious consumers (e.g. Muslim and Hindu).

Before certifying such products the kashrus agency will inspect the plant and may require the plant to upgrade certain aspects of their process. For example, although clothing detergent does not require certification, the kashrus agency will require that all ingredients be kosher because some may use it for dishes or want to follow a higher standard.

Milk that is produced overseas without strict government supervision is problematic and requires actual certification. (Halachically Speaking note 38). Some milk contains additives (flavors or cultures) which also require certification.

I'm not sure this answers your question completely, but it's a start...

Source: Personal recollection from previous work for a Kashrus agency

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In America, the overwhelming majority of people who prefer to buy or only buy kosher-certified products are non-Jews.[1] Generally speaking, Americans don't really trust the government, including in areas of food safety, so having a third-party certification provides extra security. Of course, one close look into the kosher-certification industry might dissuade them from thinking that, but until then, we will continue to have kosher-certified bottled water.

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/13/dining/13kosh.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

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