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?

  • 4
    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
    Commented May 13, 2014 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? Commented May 13, 2014 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
    Commented May 13, 2014 at 3:47
  • youtube.com/watch?v=gdB6QFjM9AA This might be interesting for you.
    – rosenjcb
    Commented May 13, 2014 at 4:25
  • The question could be why isn't any milk with an OU cholov yisroel? But it maybe it is.
    – Ariel K
    Commented May 13, 2014 at 20:30

4 Answers 4


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.


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


The following answer is my opinion based on my experience as a mashgiach in 3 different settings: a) meat restaurant, b) Pesach at a hotel, c) at a Kosher supermarket, as well as some common sense [being a business person, myself] - if a person assumes that all is well with a product just because it has a hashgachah, then that person is being naive. Granted, it is probably better than assuming such of a product that does not have hashgachah. Yet, there have been plenty of instances where a specific "kosher" supervision either proved to be a sham [in Monsey, several years ago in the kosher meat scandal; as well as one that happened in Florida over a decade ago] or breaking laws related to [if I understand it correctly] price gouging [and are, consistently, fined by the government for breaking the law] as in what happens with at least 1 certain unnamed company during Pesach [yearly].

I have seen it reported that the reason why cholov yisrael milk [and in some milk products] goes bad faster than cholov stam is because of shipping and storage malpractice.

bottom line: the halacha is that you can't drink milk from an unkosher animal. the point of Cholov Yisrael is to ensure that the milk is not from an unkosher animal. Yet, if you are familiar with the kashrut supervision at companies in areas where Jews do not live, or at least are not in close proximity, around the clock, on site supervision is not guaranteed. Thus, how do you know that the company doesn't sneak something unkosher into their product when the mashgiach is not at the plant, in the same way you question the possibility that a company doesn't sneak non-kosher milk into their product when the government isn't there?

If a company is willing to be, potentially, caught for violating a government food law that will cost it its right to either operate or produce a certain profitable product, that is foolish business practice.

A final related note: in the Shulchan Aruch it says that, when it comes to shechitah, what matters is that it is done according to the halachah, not the shochet's yirat shamayim. This concept would seem to apply here as well.

PS As a note of clarification, brought to my attention by mevaqesh...my underlying point is that I believe that kashrut certification is designed to make it easier for a Jew to purchase Kosher food, and thus it is appropriate for cholov stam to have a heksher, even if it is not necessary in the USA in the present time.

  • Thanks for sharing your knowledge about the uncertainties in the food industry. I don't see how exactly it answers the specific question at hand. (As I understood it) If one agrees with R. Feinstein that milk is to be trusted to be kosher, why add a hekhsher? And if one adds a heksher, indicating one does not agree with R. Feinstein's, then why would that heksher not include a halav yisrael certification, that ought to be required according to R. Feinstein's disputants. And if adding a non halav yisrael hekhsher is indeed useless, is inappropriate to do so.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented May 3, 2017 at 3:27
  • If one knows how to maneuver the food industry, what questions to ask, etc, heksharim probably wouldn't be absolutely necessary [depending on the product at hand]. However, for your average Jew, heksharim are a good and easier way to purchase kosher food. For example, I know an orthodox rabbi, with in depth knowledge of the ins and outs of halacha, who has gone to bakeries without certification and purchased bread there - after asking certain questions. A different story is when you have rabbis giving a heksher to a product that is completely unnecessary - laundry detergent on pesach.
    – M18
    Commented May 4, 2017 at 5:12
  • Is the point of your answer that a hekhsher on milk that diesn not certify it as halac yisrael is intended to allay the concerns of uninformed consumers? That is a fine answer, but it should be more clearly stated.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented May 4, 2017 at 5:14
  • Yes, I believe that is the big issue. And, I agree, I could have stated it more clearly.
    – M18
    Commented May 4, 2017 at 5:17
  • No need for regrets. Simply use the edit function to clarify.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented May 4, 2017 at 5:23

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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