Kosher – Anyone?

asifthebes (sxc.hu)

More people are turning to kosher foods even if it costs more – not because they are Jewish but because they think these foods are safer, healthier, and of better quality. There is little published research comparing the safety of kosher and nonkosher foods.  It is not purer or more wholesome, not necessarily more nutritious or flavorful, and has just as much sugar and fat than nonkosher.  The salting process may reduce attachment of bacteria to the carcass surface and so they are easier to rinse off.  But, this is not a sterilization process and you still need to handle the meat carefully.  The kosher symbol is no guarantee of safety. 

The animals may not be produces more humanely either.  They may be raised under factory-farm conditions, with limited space, fresh air, and exercise.  Also, if the slaughter is not done correctly, the animal may remain conscious for some time after having its throat cut.  Many argue that this way is stressful and cruel as opposed to being stunned before slaughtering, as is done conventionally.  There are serious food safety violations in kosher operations as there are in conventional. 

Kosher foods are produced in accordance with strict religious dietary laws, at specialized facilities under rabbinical supervision.  Kosher inspectors do not perform tests designed specifically for food safety.  They do ensure that no brain tissue (where infections agents are found in sick cows) spreads to other parts of the animal.  This decreases the risk of contracting the human form of mad cow disease.   Anyway, there are no known cases in the United States due to infected American beef.  New USDA regulations help ensure that all beef is safe from mad cow disease.

Kosher inspectors are allowed to visit plants unannounced to make sure that kosher laws are followed and that foods are accurately labeled.  This is good for people with severe dairy allergies or that are lactose intolerance and it is good for vegetarians.  They do check for signs of disease, but don’t perform test specifically for food safety. 

(Source:  University of CA, Berkeley)

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