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My question is what sorts of questions should a consumer ask a kashrut organization to determine if he should rely on it?

An example:

Reuven finds some hard candy that is certified by Kosher-Z. The only information Reuven could find is that the agency is headed by R' Shimon, who is an orthodox rabbi.

What would be appropriate questions for Reuven to ask R' Shimon?

  • You ask an organization (or a Rav) you know is acceptable, and ask them if the other one is as well. Keep in mind that there isn't really a lot you can 'ask' to truly determine if something is acceptably Kosher, as the reasons why an Orthodox agency would be invalid are either because they rely on leniencies (which they will say is fine, and the average consumer likely wouldn't know how to distinguish properly) or they don't have good procedures in place to ensure their standards are upheld (and how would you ask an organization "hey, are you well run?"). – Salmononius2 Aug 31 '17 at 22:49
  • Opinion based? [15] – DonielF Oct 31 '17 at 17:53
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Fundamentally, I agree with Salmonius's comment. Most people ask another reliable authority such as a rav you know, what the kashrut reliability of a place is. In some cases, he may know and give you an answer. You can ask the rav, directly, why he has arrived at his conclusion, but, unless his response is obviously "un"halachic or has no related basis (e.g. he says, "No, you can't use this kashrut because the supervising mashgiach disagreed with a Rash"i we discussed during chevruta) you would be bound by the rav's decision.

If that option is unavailable, most people I know hedge cautiously. In other words, they just don't use products under that supervision until they can find out reliably that they can.

The point is, that kashrut rules are extremely complex for the lay person. This applies even to more notable organizations such as the OU. Case in point - you'll find a few M.Y. questions regarding OU - dairy designation on products that don't seem to have any dairy ingredients. Previously, there was an OU DE (Dairy equipment) on such products. A few years ago, OU eliminated that designation. Does this mean that as a lay-person, I can assume that by reading the ingredients I can decide it's really not dairy without asking the OU, directly? Answer is, no. Because, in fact, a product can still be dairy even if there are no dairy ingredients listed. That's why you and I need to hedge cautiously on kashrut items that we don't know much about.

  • Point taken. I just read a post concerning ka-kosher and mentioned that even then, only certain products were considered reliable by star-k. – Menachem Eliyahu Sep 1 '17 at 18:10

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