I want to know what the OU's or any other Orthodox kashrut agency's problem is with Triangle K. I have read about the Ralbag family which founded and runs the Triangle K and they are clearly Orthodox. If so, what is the problem with their hashgacha?

Please provide sources and facts and not mere conjecture or judgment calls.

I don't mean for this question to arouse a political and/or religious debate, I am purely interested in the facts.

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    Hello Mark, and welcome to Judaism.SE! Thanks for asking this relevant contemporary question. If you have some documentation or other material indicating that the OU or other agencies indeed have a problem with Triangle K, outlining or linking to it could really strengthen your question. As you suggest, this potentially evocative discussion should be based only on sources and facts, not mere conjecture or judgment calls. – WAF Nov 27 '11 at 15:01
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    @WAF The Triangle K is not listed on the CRC's directory of acceptable kashrut agencies: crcweb.org/agency_list.php – SarahBrodsky Nov 27 '11 at 15:05
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    @SarahBrodsky That is a very useful piece of information which, if included in the question, would make it one on the cRc rather than the OU. If so, the question would be undermined by a line in the first paragraph linked, "The fact that a particular agency does not appear on this list does not imply that the cRc has determined it to be substandard." – WAF Nov 27 '11 at 15:09
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    @WAF Mark did say "or any other kashrut agency". I disagree that the statement you cited would undermine the question. That seems like a throwaway line to avoid publicly denigrating other organizations. Triangle K is a very common symbol and if the CRC recommended it, it would be on the list. – SarahBrodsky Nov 27 '11 at 15:15
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    This shul's list of symbols explicitly that Triangle K is not accepted. asbi.org/kashrut/index.htm Of course, this is a synagogue and not a kashrut agency. – SarahBrodsky Nov 27 '11 at 15:46

Every Kosher Agency has its own standards that it adheres to. It has its leniencies that it follows, as well as stringencies. If you don't agree with those leniences, then you won't trust that hechsher.

There are many things that must be taken into account. Some examples:

  • the Kashering process between non-kosher and kosher products run on the same line.
  • Transportation.
  • The ingredients used (e.g. gelatin)
  • the frequency of Mashgichim (inspectors') visits
  • Transparency. How easy is it to find out what leniencies the Kosher Agency follows.
  • does your level of kashrut observance match up with the koshering agency

I wasn't able to find the Triangle-K's stance on any of these issues, but here's an interview (archived here) allegedly conducted with Rabbi Ralbag. In it, he specifically mentions two leniencies that many others do not accept:

“Others don’t want to accept it, so very good…we depend on ABC…On cooking for wine, someone will say 190, someone will say 180…what we do, we’ll say openly what we do…but it’s al pi halacha…Rav Moshe has a tshuva that when you take grape juice and you cook it…175…by the crush you cook the grapes…even if it’s all done by a non-jew, it’s kosher…only considered non-kosher after it’s separated…we set up one of our large grape-juice suppliers in that way…Even if it’s fully in non-jewish hands…it’s kosher…we put a mashgiach there, but even if he wouldn’t be there, it’s kosher.”

So, he relies on R' Moshe's leniency with regards to grape juice. He considers mevushal what others would consider non-mevushal, and therefore becomes forbidden to drink when touched by a non-Jew, according to people who do not follow that leniency.

He also says that they follow a leniency about when the grapes can start becoming non-kosher if touched be a non-Jew. When I worked at a winery under the OU's supervision, all the touching was done by the Mashgichim from when the grapes were brought into the processing center, before they even enter the crusher.

What about hard liquor? “We permit hard liquor…even though it’s made in caskets…al pi halacha it’s permitted…stam yaynam…They don’t blend, so far as we found out, they don’t blend any wine…we don’t give a hashgocha on whiskey anyway.”

So it all depends on what leniencies you're willing to accept.

Also, based on the above (assuming you don't accept these leniencies), you might say I'll stay away from Triangle-K products that contain wine/grape juice, but can eat the rest of their products. But there's something to remember, if they consider the grape 100% kosher, that means they aren't careful to kasher the lines in between grape and non-grape products, since there is nothing wrong with the grape products. This could potentially mean that other products on the same line are "contaminated" as well. One might argue that it is all nullified, but maybe not, you have no way of knowing.

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    @AdamMosheh: Exactly. See here: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/12736/… – Menachem Mar 7 '12 at 13:51
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    Odd that relying on R Moshe Feinstein would put you on the blacklist. – Double AA Jan 15 '13 at 20:29
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    @DoubleAA: not everyone accepts all his chumrot (e.g. timers on shabbat) and not everyone accepts all his Kulot (e.g. Chalav HaCompanies) – Menachem Jan 15 '13 at 22:17
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    @DoubleAA: I agree. But the Triangle K is also sorely lacking in their transparency. And perhaps that is the problem. How can anyone recommend them, when they ahve no idea what they hold? The OU's Kashrut policies are public record and available on their website. – Menachem Jan 16 '13 at 4:58
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    What you just wrote (if you can source it with links to the websites (and perhaps those of other major kashrus organizations) or something) is IMO a more valuable answer than what is in your post. – Double AA Jan 16 '13 at 5:00

The OU has (at least) two specific problems with Triangle-K:

1- While halakhah has no minimum bound (shiur) for how often an establishment must be spot-checked (yotzei venichnas = someone who goes and comes), Triangle-K does so far less often than does the OU.

The OU had multiple incidents where staff made it clear that until the OU took over inspection, the staff never expected a Triangle-K employee to stop by, and didn't particularly worry about someone coming by just as they were doing something wrong.

2- Rabbi Ralbag holds that factory equipment self-kashers by doing a run. So, he allows doing a run of non-kosher product, and rather than stopping everything for a full cleaning and kashering, he would do a run of kosher product -- to be wasted or more likely sold as non-kosher. Then the second batch onward of kosher product would be sold as kosher.

(I have a feeling this is the bit about non-kosher and kosher animal fats mentioned in Yishai's answer.)

I also heard about his allowing pasteurized grape juice, but only through the rumor mill. The above two are from a rabbinic supervisor within the OU.

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    Possible objection to the OU supplied anecdote on #1, as one might expect them to quote a story that puts them in a better light than a competitor. – Isaac Kotlicky Mar 2 '16 at 13:34
  • If it was an official OU statement and not something I got informally from a rav who happens to work for the OU. I cannot name names, as he would like to continue getting a paycheck. (And to preempt people who might wrongly blame the wrong person: no, it's NOT my rebbe-chaver who was a longtime Avodah email list member.) – Micha Berger Mar 2 '16 at 17:01
  • what about cheese? I know tablet K is meikil vis-a-vis gevinas akum, but haven't heard about the triangle-k. Most commercial cheeses use vegetable or microbial rennet anyhow... – Isaac Kotlicky Mar 2 '16 at 18:23

In addition to the Menachem's response above, Triangle K does not require meat products to be glatt kosher, which is a stringency that most American Jews hold by. As far as I know, this is the main reason why people don't go by them. Especially for meat products like Hebrew National hot dogs.

My understanding is that many people have no problem with eating Triangle-K products that are not meat; however, I can imagine that this lower standard of kashrut might cause people think twice before buying any of their products at all.

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    @Daniel - you say "glatt kosher...is a stringency that most American Jews hold by". On what do you base that? AFAIK, most American Jews do not keep kosher at all. Also, AFAIK, most who do keep kosher don't even know what Glatt means. Of those who know what Glatt means, I seriously doubt if "most" of them are makpid about it. That leaves: "most American Jews who keep Glatt hold by that stringency" - which is a tautology and adds nothing. TriangleK does represent that the meat is Glatt - so what's the complaint? And how does that have any impact on their hechsher on other (non-meat) products? – yosh m Sep 17 '13 at 9:22
  • See this article about Hebrew National at Yeshiva world: theyeshivaworld.com/article.php?p=130775 – yosh m Sep 17 '13 at 9:22
  • Typo in my earlier comment: "...TriangleK does represent..." should be "...TriangleK does not represent..." – yosh m Sep 19 '13 at 21:27
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    FWIW, Ashkenazim have no need to hold by glatt. I have even seen a psak from R' Hamburger (a Charedi Yekke) that one should prioritise the ethical aspects of koscher v'yauscher over chumrot like glatt. – Noach MiFrankfurt Feb 18 '15 at 2:12
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    R JB Soloveitchik also said that the number of cows leaving glatt slaughterhouses as glatt is unrealistic. Adhesions that cannot be "easily removed" (as glatt defines "easily") are just more common than that. – Micha Berger Mar 2 '16 at 16:53

The OU and other certification agency's problems with the Triangle-K are well documented with in-person interviews in Professor Timothy Litton's book Kosher: Private Regulation in the Age of Industrial Food.

Selected excerpts (from page 82 to 84):

Triangle K has much in common with its larger competitors ... There is, however, one crucial difference: there is a widespread consensus that Triangle K certification is unreliable.


Critics of Triangle K argue that Ralbag's kashrus standards are below the industry norm. One industry expert, who wished to remain anonymous, explained as follows:

He goes on with an example of using Kosher animal fat and vegetable fat on the same equipment but calling the vegetable fat pareve without Kashering. Ralbag says that his father did that, but he no longer does.

Nevertheless, this example reflects a belief that Ralbag has kashrus standards ... that, while principled, are sufficiently outside of the mainstream that other agencies will not rely on his certification. As another kashrus expert explained, "It's permissible under Jewish law, but it's a standard that many people are not willing to accept."

Critics of Triangle K also accuse Ralbag of lax administrative practices.

He describes the Triangle K not inspecting jointly certified facilities with the OU - they only ever see the OU Rabbi there, and having insufficient administrative capacity to know and track what he is certifying.

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    It's hard to call what you quote "well documented". It's just more of the same "lax standards and poor administration" generalities. You have provided one example without even explaining what is wrong with the Triangle K's alleged former position. – Double AA May 7 '14 at 17:07
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    @DoubleAA, you can see the book for the sources and further details. I wasn't inclined to type up that much text. But for the question of why they don't like them, it is very well documented. He goes directly to the "they", the OU, CRC, etc., and gets and documents their reasons. – Yishai May 7 '14 at 17:16

Rabbi Asher Lopatin - when he was still in Chicago before moving to YCT - created a Community Standard of Kashrut for his Orthodox Synagogue.

It can be seen at http://images.shulcloud.com/626/uploads/community-standards-of-kashrut.pdf

In it he states:

The Triangle K was added to the not-acceptable category. I really tried on this one, but I cannot call it reliable.

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    This doesn't answer the question. – Double AA Mar 30 '15 at 17:00
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    @DoubleAA - Perhaps, but in some ways this is the closest that you can get to an answer. By the nature of Kashrut Supervision and what is considered reliable and what is not, all that we have to go by is either published lists of reliable hechshers, and word-of-mouth. I have asked the same question myself about Triangle-K from Rabbis, and what I heard were comments about Rabbi Ralbag himself not eating his own hechsher and how lenient the Hechsher is on several issues. But no major Kashrut organization lists the Hechshers that are not reliable and why. What about Tablet-K? Mexico אא? – Ask613 Mar 31 '15 at 13:35

Triangle k is kosher according to the letter of the law. Now in regards to which products you wish to consume depends on your standards of kashrut. Regarding meat however some people will say that the meat is tarfus (non-kosher on a biblical level). This is incorrect. The way they are bodek (inspect) the lungs, as well as the melicha (salting) isn't In the strictest manner as most ultra orthodox slaughter houses would perform. So like I said before according to the letter of the law even on a rabbinic level it would be permitted. The meat just isn't glatt. (Glatt is when they check the animals lungs and they don't find an abnormality) depending on the abnormality it can either render the meat tarfus or kosher. People that eat glatt don't eat meat that has a question of an abnormality found within the lungs. (Note: there is no concept of glatt by poultry)

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    Isn't the letter of the law different for different standards? Isn't that what standards mean? – Double AA Jun 8 '14 at 23:06
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    The letter of the law means Halacha. The concept of glatt is not halacha. As a matter of a fact you will not find the concept of glatt in the mishna, gemara, or even in the shulchan aruch. – David Feigen Aug 9 '15 at 8:16
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    That doesn't sound like a fact to me. – Double AA Aug 11 '15 at 15:53
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    I've asked many rabbis and they all have told me that it's an actual fact. – David Feigen Aug 11 '15 at 15:59
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    That could be, but then perforce either you or they didn't fully pose/understand the question clearly. – Double AA Aug 11 '15 at 16:02

1- many use rav moshe on pasteurized wine
2- carrying grapes only by mashgiach is a stringency
3- one can still get non glatt from reliable kosher agencies
4- less checking and less openness is the main problem. If that was fixed then other problems would go away. Also if rabbi lopatin,a rather understanding individual, could not consider it reliable... Fuhgeddaboudit! Finally - look up crc ,you get their site as well as any other kashrut org. Look up triangle k and you get stack exchange! Obviously they are not very open

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    There is no need to shout (i.e., write in all caps). Second it is not clear how your points relate to the question, maybe you could phrase this is as self-understanding text. Last, if I Google Triangle K, I get .... their site. – mbloch May 7 at 3:17

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