Gut Rumbles

August 11, 2005

kosher pigment

We made a food-grade pigment at the plant that went into a lot of foods and medicines. TiO2 is a brightening agent, so it makes cakes look more delicious, some pills easier to take and icing shine. We sold a lot of that stuff to a Jewish bakery in New York.

I am NOT making this shit up. For a while, once every year the bakery that bought a lot of our product flew a bearded rabbi to Savannah so that he could "bless" our pigment and make it Kosher. I watched the guy do it a few times, right there in the warehouse.

Times got hard later, and that's when I learned that a rabbi can declare pigment "Kosher" by telegram. Sure enough. They didn't fly the rabbi to Savannah anymore. Some kid showed up in a Western Union shirt and handed the shipping people a telegram pronouncing our pigment Kosher. We could ship it then.

It was GOOD pigment, but it was the same stuff I made every day. Calling it "Kosher" didn't make it any different from anything else we put in a bag.

Wanna bet? I'll bet YOU that you've eaten pigment I made, at least once or twice in your life. If you ever ate a cake, some M&Ms or took a white pill, you ate what I once made.

Didn't kill ya, either, did I?


Now I know why my tesicles glowed in the dark back in the 80's :-)

Posted by: Robert on August 12, 2005 02:23 AM

red dye number 40?

Posted by: Kelly on August 12, 2005 07:15 AM

Big deal. I used to work for a company that made lace and tricot for the big lingerie companies like Bali, Playtex, and Warners. So the stuff I used to help make found it's way onto the T+A of millions of women.

/Best color name? Crotch Sand.

Posted by: Bill on August 12, 2005 09:39 AM

"Crotch Sand?" Damn, Bill. I LIKE that!

Posted by: Acidman on August 12, 2005 09:40 AM

Ah yes, good old TiO2. The same stuff that makes white paint white.

Just to correct a misconception, the rabbi doesn't "bless" anything to make it kosher. All he does is inspect ("supervise") the plant to be sure that no forbidden animal products can find their way into the product. For a TiO2 plant, that's pretty straightforward - which is probably why he didn't need to make another on-site inspection after a while.

For a plastics plant, it's more complicated, because some of our additives, like erucylamide, the stuff that makes plastic bags slippery so they don't stick together, can be made from animal or vegetable sources.

As long as you're not putting bacon grease or deviled crab into the TiO2, you'll have no problem with that kosher certification.

Posted by: Elisson on August 12, 2005 09:54 AM

Small point.... any visit by a Rabbi was not to "bless" the product but to inspect the process. Once the authority was satisfied that nothing non-kosher was/could be introduced into the finished product, he'd grant the Kosher certification... on-site visits might be re-evaluated periodically.

Posted by: oceanguy on August 12, 2005 11:35 AM

Not yet.

Posted by: ccracs on August 12, 2005 01:18 PM

Okay, I'll buy that explanation about Kosher pigment. NO animal products go into TiO2 (except for a paper grade that used glue made from dead horses as a flocculant) and the food-grade was made on a separate line after a thorough clean-out.

Most people don't even know what TiO2 is, let alone the fact that probably eat it, rub it on themselves and hold something made from it every day.

Posted by: Acidman on August 12, 2005 01:34 PM

My father had a friend that worked for a while in a slaughterhouse.

One of his jobs was to stamp the word "Kosher" on every fourth package that came down the line.

Posted by: Rich on August 12, 2005 02:47 PM

I used to work for a food flavorings company in New Jersey. We had 2 full-time rabbis on site. They don't bless the product, but they inspect the process and the ingredients to make sure they're kosher. For instance, if we wanted to make a kosher batch in a vessel that had been used to make a pork flavor, we had to "kosherize" the vessel. This involved washing out the vessel with boiling water for an hour, then letting it sit idle for 24. The rabbi would come down to the department when we were ready to start with a digital thermometer and a stop watch. He would test the water to verify that it was 100 degrees C, then start the time. He would come back an hour later and test the water again. If it was below 100 degrees C we would have to start all over again.

The process got pretty complicated because the rabbis would also inspect our bills of material for kosher product to verify that the ingredients we were using were not only kosher ingredients, but kosher ingredients from "approved" sources.

I worked at this plant for nearly 5 years and kosher was always a big issue. Oddly enough, the demand for actual kosher product is not so much from observant Jews, but from the large consumer foods companies like Kraft, General Mills and Coca-Cola. These companies know how rigorous the kosher certification process is, so they use it as an extra guarantee that they'll receive hygeinic products. Probably 35-50% of the food you buy in the supermarket is kosher. Look for tiny symbols on the packaging like a U inside of a circle or a K inside of circle or triangle. Once you know to look for them, you'll see them everywhere (i.e. on cans of Coke or on Little Debbies boxes).

Here are a couple of the more successful kosher certification agencies.

Posted by: Chadd on August 12, 2005 04:37 PM

I've been keeping kosher for about a quarter century.

Kosher has nothing to do with a rabbi "blessing" a product. It's about supervising that no non-kosher ingredients get into a product.

All American beer is kosher (except during Passover). I once had the opportunity to sit next to a VP of Coors on a flight shortly after they obtained kosher certification from the O-U (Orthodox Union). Over my kosher meal, I asked why they did that since Coors was already known in the Orthodox Jewish community as kosher. They said it was a pure marketing decision, that they knew for the price of hiring an additional full-time "quality control" inspector and the cost of reprinting the cans and labels, they'd be able to pull away some of the competition's market and make multiples of their investment in extra profit.

I also know of milk-allergic Catholic parents of a friend who depend on kosher certification symbols which assert that a product contains no dairy. (People who keep kosher don't eat meat with dairy together, so knowing if a product contains dairy is important.) Vegetarians can trust kosher certification of items labeled "pareve" (neither milk nor meat ingredients).

The growth in certification is demand-based. Companies call kosher certification organizations because they can make more profit, far outweighing the minimal inspection costs.

Industrial certification is MUCH easier than food products. In general, if a factory doesn't change its line or suppliers, very little needs to be done from year to year.

Feel free to ask me any time.

Posted by: Aaron's cc: on August 12, 2005 04:53 PM

"Didn't kill ya, either, did I?"

Not yet. But at least it gave you cancer first asshole.


Posted by: PJ on August 13, 2005 02:30 AM
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