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How do big brands like Kraft and others produce kosher certified foods while avoiding bishul akum? Do these brands have Jews on staff to light fires/operate machinery at the food production plants? Is the OU notified when these people switch jobs?

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  • Do you have a specific product in mind? Most don’t have a problem either because it’s eaten raw or because it’s not served on shulchan malachim
    – Chatzkel
    Mar 18 at 19:26
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    Sure, wonder bread for instance Mar 18 at 19:58
  • Oh. That’s pas palter not bishul akum. Is that all?
    – Chatzkel
    Mar 18 at 20:01
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    M&Ms and other chocolates? I can't come up with another example off the top of my head Mar 18 at 20:04
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    Why not assume that the supervising organization has a representative on premises, to carry out what is needed to make sure they keep to kashroot standards, and then have some kind of regional supervisor to check in and see that everything is being done correctly, from time to time?
    – Tamir Evan
    Mar 18 at 20:06

2 Answers 2

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The fire can also be lit remotely, as discussed here https://judaism.stackexchange.com/a/57318/33522

However, as noted there, the Star-K does not agree that this method is halachically valid. The Star‑K in that same article describes a different method.

Would a glow bar or glow plug that was turned on by a Yehudi and was burning continuously qualify for bishul Yisroel? The minimum halachic requirement for bishul Yisroel is “hashlochas kisem”, literally, to throw a small wood chip into the fire. Any minor action that contributes heat to the cooking would qualify for bishul Yisroel. If the oven would be hotwired so that a bulb or a glow bar could be placed into the oven cavity, turned on by the Yehudi,and left on permanently, the additional heat given off by the light bulb or glow plug (which is considered fire) would more than qualify for hashlochas kisem and would fulfill the requirements of bishul Yisroel.

Thus if the mashgiach lights the bulb or glow bar, as long as it is left on the oven fire can always be turned on by a non-Jew without any issues. I have been told that the OU's poskim do not agree that the Star-K's method is halachically valid.

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For foods where bishul akkum applies, meaning foods that are not edible raw and are oleh al shulchan melachim (important enough to be served at a king's table/fancy event), there is indeed a Jew present, a mashgiach who works for the kosher certifying agency, to turn on fires and heating equipment. Realize that many foods, especially ones produced by Kraft and the like, don't fall into that category.

In many factories, a fire can be burning for a long time, possibly even indefinitely, so it isn't necessarily required to have a Jew on hand at all times. In such cases, the kosher certifying agency will have systems in place to be aware of when a fire goes out or to ensure that only their own representative can turn it back on. One example of such a system would be equipment that logs if the fire goes out and turns back on. The kosher certifying agency can audit the logs periodically and see if the equipment was powered up by someone who wasn't authorized. In other cases, the mashgiach can place a tamper-proof seal to ensure nobody else opened it in the meantime.

In other cases, there is indeed a mashgiach who visits when needed to turn on fires (and check on other things, or possibly kasher equipment if needed).

Source: a rabbi/supervisor of mashgichim at the OU.

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  • This is helpful, do you happen to have any sources or examples? Mar 19 at 13:59
  • @AviAvraham my source is a rabbi at the OU who is a relative, and hearing him talk about various issues that come up at work.
    – Esther
    Mar 19 at 14:03
  • that certainly works for me. Interesting to hear it works similarly to how I've imagined it Mar 19 at 14:06

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