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A former rebbe whom I highly respect advised me not to eat any food product that has more than one kosher certification on it. His thinking was that in principle, the concepts of kashrut and achdut - unity or community - moust go together. In other words, certifying a product as being kosher is a form of allowing a community, i.e., the consumer, teh halchic "permission" to eat the product.

His claim is that if there is more than one mashgiach (supervision) on a product, either the 1st mashgiach wasn't competent enough or "certain" of the kashrut, so he had to ask a second person (or 3rd), or that even if the 1st mashgiach completed the kashrut job and said something was kosher, some other mashgiach didn't sufficiently trust the 1st person, for whatever reason, and had to supervise it himself.

He also claims, that in terms of the consumer, the multiple certifications would make a "novice" consumer (by "novice" I mean someone who is just looking for a kosher product an doesn't understand the politics or other reasons involved behind the kashrut process) question what's going on. Additionally, the rebbe claims that it may be a form of Chillul Hashem, esp. to non-Jews who may conclude the same thing - that Jews can't agre.

Now, I'm confused, myself, here. I attend weddings where the almost all of the deserts come from Chantilly, who makes delicious pastries (so many people tell me that, and they look gorgeous), but because Chantilly's products have 4 or 5 kosher symbols, I can't enjoy the Vienese table.

Is there any validity to my rebbe's claims? Does having multiple symbols weaken the reliability of the kashrut of that item?

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9  
According to him, I don't think there's anything in Israel you can eat, since nearly everything has many hechsherim, –  Ypnypn Jun 11 at 13:38
    
@Ypnypn - I see my rebbe's point, but, again, I question the practicality of anyone applying it, including him. Then again, he uses many raw ingredients and doesn't buy much processed products, so he may be able to manage better than most people. He's also amazingly healthy, perhaps as a side bonus of his policy. –  DanF Jun 11 at 13:43
    
By this logic, should no hechsher be the best? Or is it validity = x/number of symbols, so no symbols would have NaN validity? –  Avram Levitt Jun 11 at 16:46

2 Answers 2

up vote 14 down vote accepted

As one who has a brother in the bakery business who has 4 certifications on his products I dispute this claim. My brother has 4 different certifications in order to appeal to different communities. There are those that only eat specific certifications and will not eat your product unless it is certified by a Rabbi that they feel comfortable with. (Correct: it is a folly, as all certifications rely on others in many instances.) Every one of the certifications my brother has, all come by to check, and all have specific criteria. It is not a lack of trust between the Kashrus organizations, it is a lack of similar criteria that requires them all to make sure that the bakery is Kosher according to their standards. This enhances the Kashrus as it requires the bakery to keep all the stringencies of all the certifications.

Having said what I said, it is a shame that this is necessary. It would be nice if each area had 1 certification standard. However unfortunately there are many different groups in Klal Yisrael and in an area where there live many different types it is quiet impossible to have only 1 certification. How many towns have only 1 Shul? How many towns have only 1 school? And yes those perhaps have only 1 Kashrus organization.

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I've even seen seltzer with 3 hechsheirim - and it doesn't even need a hechsher! –  Scimonster Jun 11 at 14:42
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Great answer +1. But...Kashrus agencies rely on each other but will do so after determining the standard of Kashrus. For example if they find out that certain leniencies were relied on wrt bishul akum they won't rely on the other agency... there is no automatic carte Blanche acceptance. I have seen this occur many times –  Yoni Jun 11 at 14:46
    
@Scimonster You can't find a bottle of water in Israel with fewer than 4 or 5 hechsheirim. –  Daniel Jun 11 at 17:28
    
Sadly, it is not always just about trust between the different Kashrut orgs, or even a question of different stringencies - there are, sad to say, some Kashrut agencies that insist on their own certification for the sole purpose of money. It is a business, after all. (Obviously not all kashruyot, but there are some, and apologies if anyone is offended by this - but it is true). –  AviD Jun 12 at 11:50

Hallachicly there is nothing that makes an issue out of eating the food when the item has multiple certifications, whatever the motivation or propriety of doing so (and I think Gershon Gold is spot on about the manufacturer's motivation in having them).

That being said, in terms of the application of the general hashkafic point, almost any meat you are buying in an area that Chantilly services has two certifications - the OU plus something else. Your Rebbe may say that you are buying from a specific meat store that has only one certification. By that same reasoning, the Viennese table is under the single certification that the entire event is under.

Also, I would point out that it is highly unlikely that all of the ingredients used by the caterer have single certifications only. You just aren't aware of it.

That being said, if your rebbe told you this, you should really go back and ask him, rather than seek permission from other sources.

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Or possibly change rabbis. The rebbe is a trained expert, but he is not infallable. Some are better trained, or more in synch with the needs of particular communities and individuals, than others. –  keshlam Jun 12 at 5:01
    

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