Read the answers to COR’s most frequently asked questions about kosher.
Could there be a problem with purchasing food or drinks from an uncertified ice cream or coffee shop?
Yes. There can potentially be a problem with either the product that you are purchasing or with the other products and equipment that may come into contact with the product that you are purchasing.
Since these establishments are not certified at the retail level and there is no mashgiach visiting and checking up on them, the consumer must independently ascertain the kosher status of the product in question. For example, at ice cream or frozen yogurt shops, many ice cream flavours, ice cream cakes, chocolate syrup, sprinkles and cones may not be kosher certified. At coffee shops, flavoured coffees and specialty drinks may not be kosher certified. Relying on the attendant to provide you with answers is not sufficient. You must verify the kosher status of these items by identifying the kosher symbol on the original packaging of all of the ingredients – a book of kosher certificates at the front desk is insufficient.
Additionally, you must determine that the kosher product does not come into contact with non-kosher product or non-kosher equipment. This may happen where kosher and non-kosher utensils are washed together or in coffee shops where products may be steamed on the same machinery.
Canadian law states that it is an offense to use the word “kosher” unless it complies with the standards of halacha. If the word “kosher” is written in a store, you should ask which certifying body is standing behind this representation.
Are the muffins at Starbucks in Canada kosher?
Most of the muffins sold at Starbucks stores in Canada are manufactured at facilities that are kosher certified by COR. According to Jewish law, one must see a kosher symbol on a product’s packaging in order to guarantee that the particular product is in fact kosher. Many Starbucks locations keep the boxes used to package the muffins on hand and these boxes do carry the COR kosher symbol. Kosher consumers should ask baristas to see the “master case” so that the consumers may verify the kosher status for themselves.
May one assume that the popcorn sold at theatres, fairs or sporting events is kosher? What if the popcorn stand carries kosher certificates for its ingredients?
The short answer is no. Even if you see or are told that all of the ingredients used in the popcorn are kosher certified, there are basic kosher issues to be considered. Since this vendor is not kosher certified, he is not bound to use exclusively kosher ingredients. He may have kosher certificates for his ingredients, but what if he runs out of a particular ingredient or finds a less expensive non-kosher substitute? It is even conceivable that he could place a non-kosher ingredient into a container that has kosher certification on it. In addition, the machinery and utensils might have been used for non-kosher items, and this would compromise the kosher status of the product. Finally, it is also possible that the operators test new ingredients from time to time in the machine and those test ingredients may not be kosher. Since the popcorn stand is non-certified, there is simply no way to guarantee its kosher status.
Are custom-made Baskin Robbins ice cream cakes kosher certified?
No. Most, but not all of Baskin Robbins’ ice creams are certified kosher in Canada by COR. The Baskin Robbins custom cakes (e.g. for birthdays) use Baskin Robbins ice cream, but they also contain other non-kosher certified ingredients used in the writing of the message and other decorations. However, Baskin Robbins ice cream cakes that are sealed and carry a COR or other reliable certification are indeed kosher.
Can I go to any bulk store and purchase bulk items such as raw peanuts, nuts, flour and cornmeal? Also, if I see a product such as chocolate almonds with a COR on the bin, can I trust that it is kosher?
Bulk products can be purchased for items that do not require kosher certification and are truly raw, with no coatings or flavourings added. Moreover, it should be confirmed that these items are kept in a clean, insect-free environment.
For items in a bulk store which have a COR on the bin, unfortunately we cannot verify that the foods placed in the bins are still kosher. There is a lot of cross-contamination that happens at locations like this (i.e. consumers putting things in different bins, and the store putting items in the wrong bin) and as a result we recommend purchasing food that is either in its original sealed package with certification, or in a store that is entirely kosher certified.
What flavoured coffee drinks can I buy at chains such as Starbucks, Second Cup, Tim Horton’s and the like?
In general we only recommend regular black and decaffeinated coffees at coffee shops. For more information see this article.
If I see a mix of some sort (e.g. muffin mix) listed on your website as kosher, but it is baked in a non-kosher restaurant or coffee shop, is it still kosher?
No. Food products such as muffins sold at restaurants or coffee shops that are not sealed with a reliable kosher certification symbol should not be considered kosher. Many of these mixes are produced at kosher plants that produce a variety of different products for a host of different companies. But once the mixes are baked in the non-kosher restaurant or coffee shop’s ovens which also bake other products, many of which contain non-kosher ingredients, they are no longer kosher. Therefore, in these instances, only products that are sealed and carry a reliable kosher certification symbol on the package can be considered kosher.
I’ve seen some Heinz baby food in plastic containers that have a COR, but the jar version of the same product does not. Is this a mistake? Is the jar version of the product kosher certified?
No. Many products, both kosher and non-kosher, share production lines. If the kosher products are made after non-kosher products a “kosherization” process usually needs to take place. The plastic Heinz baby food containers in question are produced in a smaller factory where there are very few scheduling conflicts and kosherization can be done easily. The glass bottles are produced in a different facility, one that is very busy, and the scheduling conflicts are too great to allow for koshering of the equipment between runs. Therefore, they should not be considered kosher.
Do maple syrup and maple sugar require certification?
Maple syrup and maple sugar should have kosher certification as anti-foams are commonly added, which need to be kosher, and they might be packed with the same machinery as non-kosher products.
Do herbal teas require kosher certification?
Many teas do not require kosher certification, but many herbal teas contain natural and/or artificial flavours which require kosher certification. The terms “natural and artificial” are generally misunderstood by the consumer. These two words could mean that there are another 10-50 other ingredients included but are too long to list. In the flavour industry there are a number of non-kosher components which are hidden behind the term “natural and artificial” flavours and colours.
Do plain fruit juices require kosher certification?
Juices require kosher certification due to the issue of processing non-kosher products on the same equipment. This could include grape juice, Clamato (i.e. clam juice) or dairy products.
Do all seasonings and spices require kosher certification?
Pure seasonings that do not have any mixtures of other ingredients such as spice oils or spice blends are generally okay. Any spice or seasoning from Israel requires proper kosher endorsement.
Does dish soap require kosher certification?
COR’s policy is that dish soap does not require kosher certification because, from a halachic perspective, soap is not seen to transfer its taste to food or dishes because soap’s taste is sour (noten ta’am lifgam).
How does the kosher certification process work exactly?
The requirements include a thorough ingredient review followed by an inspection of the plant by one of our rabbinic inspectors. Following that, there is a contractual agreement entered into between the company and the COR Council along with a supervision fee. COR maintains an ongoing relationship with its certified companies and makes scheduled and unannounced inspection visits to the company to review their food processes and raw materials.
What are the numbers in the COR symbol on labeled products?
The numbers are our way of identifying a registered manufacturing facility. The COR without a number on a processed food may raise a question as to its authenticity.
How do I know which kosher symbols are accepted? If the symbol is not shown on the COR Kosher Symbol Reference Card or COR app, does that mean it is not acceptable?
There are over 1,000 different kosher symbols from all over the world. The determination of which are acceptable is a process that requires thorough research. We generally recommend the well-known certifications which have a skilled rabbinic staff who make the halachic decisions for their organizations. As a result of the sheer abundance of kosher symbols that exist worldwide, there are many acceptable, yet lesser-known symbols which are not listed on our COR Kosher Symbol Reference Card or app. If you have a question about a particular symbol, please email our office at [email protected].
What does “DE” mean?
DE stands for “Dairy Equipment” and means that a hot product, while pareve in its essence, has been manufactured using equipment that was also used to manufacture hot dairy products where no kosherization occurred in between. Click here for more information.
I have seen a product kosher certified as pareve which contains a warning label that it “may contain milk”. Would this make the status of the product “dairy”?
Companies often list that a product “may contain dairy” for legal purposes as an allergen declaration, however, this does not affect the pareve status of a product.
Why can’t we just read the ingredients on a label and if everything is kosher, use that product?
Food manufacture is an extremely complex process. Many ingredients that are not commonly known are problematic. For example, lipase is extracted from animal tongues or pancreases, glycerides are used in many gums and candies and are usually refined animal fat, and polysorbates are often combined with glycerides and as such contain animal fat. But that’s not the whole story. Even if all of the ingredients were kosher, what about the equipment they are made on? There could easily be considerable cross-contamination that would render the product non-kosher. For these reasons amongst others, a reliable kosher certification on a food product is a must.
Why are grape flavours not kosher?
Wine (and grape juice) have always been an extremely important part of Jewish ritual. For that reason, all wine and grape juice must be made by people of Jewish faith and carry reliable kosher supervision. Regarding flavours, many grape flavours are not truly artificial as listed. Besides the many other components which are used to make a grape flavour, which may not be kosher, e.g. ethyl oenanthate, the use of concentrated grape juice is common.
Why are so many products in the United States kosher certified, while the same brands are not under supervision in Canada?
One of the main reasons for this is that the product is made by a different manufacturer who does not have kosher endorsement. A good example of this is the Kit Kat chocolate bar. Kit Kat in the United States is made by Hershey Foods Corporation, which has the Orthodox Union certification. Here in Canada, it is made by Nestle Canada which does not have kosher certification. The formula may be different as well as the source ingredients, not to mention the production process. For more information, please read this article.
What is “Yoshon”?
The Torah states that grain which was planted after Pesach may not be consumed until the following Pesach. Grain which was planted or has taken root after Pesach is considered new, or chodosh, crop and will not be permissible until the 18th of Nissan of the following year. After that date, the grain is considered old, or yoshon, crop and is permitted to be eaten. You can read more about yoshon here.
I want to convert my kitchen to kosher. How do I go about it?
Mazal tov! Kashering your home can be both a spiritually rewarding and educational experience. COR would be honoured to help you undertake this process and will even send a rabbi to your house to discuss the particulars.
I am planning an event but caterers are quoting me different mashgiach fees, some of which look pretty high, frankly. Doesn’t COR have a consistent pricing policy for its mashgichim?
COR requires our caterers to employ a working mashgiach who, for the most part, is paid directly by the caterer. His job includes both the kashrut supervision aspect of the kitchen as well as a number of other kitchen tasks which he is assigned to by the caterer. Hotels and off-site event venues do not have working mashgichim and therefore COR charges a fixed hourly rate for a mashgiach who is providing supervision in such a venue.
COR allows working mashgichim to supervise synagogue events and, in that situation, we do not send an additional mashgiach and there is no additional COR cost to the caterer. The caterer does have the direct cost of the caterer’s working mashgiach; some of whom are on salary and some of whom are paid hourly. If the caterer’s working mashgiach is unavailable, they may book one through COR at a fixed hourly rate.
Some caterers may try to recover the cost of their working mashgiach by having their clients pay for it under a separate line item called “mashgiach charge”. This might be why it differs from caterer to caterer. But please note: this charge is not generally a COR fee. Unfortunately, the appearance of this segregated charge makes it appear as if this is a COR charge when it is generally not. Furthermore, since the mashgiach does other kitchen and event work as well as many other events and take-outs it appears inaccurate to bundle it under a mashgiach charge. (Caterers don’t charge a “chef’s fee” for example). That said, it is fair for a caterer to charge out its costs for a COR mashgiach if they are operating at an outside venue or if they must hire a COR mashgiach for the event, but this fee from COR is fixed and therefore should not vary from caterer to caterer.