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Does a vegan restaurant require a permanent mashgiach on the premises to be certified kosher?

  • For large factories that get a hechsher, supervision is limited to sporadic surprise inspections. (No permanent presence of inspectors.)

  • For meat or dairy restaurants, you need a permanent presence (mashgiach) because the temptation to cheat with meat or cheese is high, given the price differential. But there is no such temptation in vegan food. (I know that bugs in lettuce need to be removed, but this matters even to non-Jews, so there is no temptation to cheat.)

I conclude that surprise inspections are enough to certify a vegan restaurant as kosher. Is that the case?

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    To a non-Jew, rinsing the lettuce might be enough; if they find any dead bugs which got blood on the lettuce, rinsing it with soap would be fine. To a Jew, technically the soap makes it נותן טעם לפגם, but ideally we try to avoid such scenarios. Not to mention that a non-Jew might not check as thoroughly as a Jew would. – DonielF Mar 24 at 23:17
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    This probably varies depending on the certifying agency. – Daniel Mar 24 at 23:33
  • @DonielF that's why there's Hashgacha. This isn't asking about an uncertified vegan restaurant – Double AA Mar 25 at 0:09
  • Possible duplicate of When does a kosher place need a mashgiach temidi? – Salmononius2 Mar 25 at 2:00
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    In a Vegan place, the mashgiach often checks the vegetables for insects - which is quite nearly a full-time job. – LN6595 Mar 25 at 2:12
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It seems to me that a constant mashgiach would still be required.

For background, there are 4 main problems with a vegan restaurant without any mashgiach, as summarized from ok.org, and chabad.org:

  1. Vegetables can often have insects. The Vegan Society allows for a minute quantity of animal products to be included in food advertised as 'vegan'. That does not, however, make the food kosher.
  2. A second issue is the restaurant equipment. Many restaurants use pre-owned utensils. It is not possible to know if the equipment was only used for kosher food (also unlikely). Although there is a heter if the vessels were not used for 24 hours (ein ben yomo), that is only permissible b'dieved. But even with that, employees will often use restaurant equipment to prepare their own food. Therefore, even ein ben yomo will not help.
  3. A 3rd problem is that the food itself is likely to be bishul akum. Bishul akum is permitted by a) food that is edible raw, and b) food that is not fit to be served by a king's table. Granted, most food will fall into either one of these categories, but other foods, like fancy potatoes, or grains and rice, will be prohibited because of bishul akum.
  4. Wines and grape juice need a valid hechsher. The restaurant may not have a wine list, but these beverages may be used as ingredients for some dishes. (I haven't found a source for this, but it is also possible that if they wine is not mevushal, there is also the problem of yayin neshech.)

Regarding factories only requiring surprise mashgichim, that is the exception, not the rule. A sporadic mashgiach only helps if we're afraid of intentional cheating in a long term scheme, in a case where if the mashgiach shows up unexpected he is very likely to catch them in the act. However, in the case of the vegan restaurant, (as you yourself said) we are not worried about intentional cheating, as the prices are similar (also R' Moshe's heter of uman lo mera umnutei-they won't risk their business by buying nonkosher ingredients). Because we are afraid of innocent, unintentional mistakes which may happen at any time, the restaurant will need a constant mashgiach. (For more info, see Torah Musings)

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    @Rafael -- OK, take a food factory that CAN be certified with only surprise inspections. How does a vegan restaurant differ from IT? The workers can make "innocent mistakes" in both. – Maurice Mizrahi Mar 25 at 1:30
  • @MauriceMizrahi, look at problems 2&3. Factory workers do not use factory equipment to prepare their own food. I would also assume for a more simple operation at a factory bishul akum is unlikely to occur. – Rafael Mar 25 at 1:37
  • Classic example I know of for a factory that doesn't need a Mashgiach Tmidi is a bakery: No vegetables to check for bugs, no employees preparing their own food (govt. and often corporate rules forbid it), wine & grape juice used far less in baking than in cooking (though sometimes their are alcoholic beverages, if the recipes are adjusted to exclude any grape-based beverages then spot-checking of ingredients is the same as with the other ingredients), industrial scale equipment may start out used (and need initial kashering) but day-to-day operations are less of a problem - not like... – manassehkatz Mar 25 at 4:42
  • a restaurant where the new chef may want to bring his favorite knives (which I have heard can really be a "thing"). Plus there tends to be less incentive to "try something new" - a factory operation isn't going to experiment with a new soup-of-the-day. – manassehkatz Mar 25 at 4:43
  • A factory assembly line makes the same thing over and over until changed over to something else (which I understand is usually a major operation). There are far fewer opportunities for variation in ingredients or processes than in a restaurant kitchen preparing any items from a (probably sizable) menu with (possible) per-customer variations like substitutions. – Monica Cellio Mar 25 at 17:44

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