Foods coming under the banner of Kosher and Halal are attracting new consumers who may not be Jews or Muslims by faith. In fact increased business being garnered by Kosher foods is a surprise development which cannot be explained away easily. Kosher foods are made strictly by the Jewish Dietary Laws,enshrined in Kashrut, enunciated centuries ago and followed by the Kosher industry with practically no compromise. For faithful Jews, Kosher foods only are acceptable and many processed foods carry the coveted Kosher certification from authorized agencies accredited for the purpose.
That Kosher foods have been able to penetrate the market with substantial following from non-Jewish consumers is amply clear from the fact that there are over 80000 food products in the world that carry the Kosher imprint and more than 40% of products on the super market shelves in the US belong to this category. Business-wise the value of Kosher foods is estimated at $170 billion out of the total food business of $500 billion in that country. Interestingly less than 15% of the consumers who buy these foods are believers of Judaism while others with different religious affiliations consider Kosher foods as clean and safe.
Kosher label for meat and dairy products imply that the products are made from kosher animals fed special diets and the animals for meat are slaughtered as per the guidelines under the surveillance of a Rabi. Washing the carcass with water and salt is compulsory and this is supposed to clean it free of blood and infectious microorganisms. Carcasses with broken bone or found to carry infection are not cleared by the Rabi. Pigs and shellfish are not permitted under Kashrut rules while use of blood as a food is banned. Foods carrying Kosher Parve label under Jewish system are considered vegetarian or vegan but may contain egg, fish and honey. Pure vegetarians, therefore must read up the label of a vegetarian Kosher food to make sure the above ingredients are not present in them. Meat and dairy products are never combined under Kosher system.
According to market analysts, many consumers in the West switch over to Kosher foods because of their comprehension, right or wrong that the regular foods manufactured by the industry are no more reliable and safety aspects are increasingly being compromised by them. This is reinforced by the spate of food poisoning episodes and frequent recalls of products like tomato, jalapeno,peanut butter, meat foods, walnuts etc due to presence of pathogens during the last few years. Consumers assume that Kosher foods are of high quality, healthful and safer compared to other foods. Casual customers buy Kosher foods when ever organic foods and Halal foods are not available in the market reflecting the reputation Kosher foods enjoy currently. It is remarkable that Kosher foods confined to small scale or micro enterprise levels till recently, have become a major sub-sector of main stream food industry in less than two decades. Probably with business volume looking up and more entrepreneurs entering this area, there is bound to be more frequent episodes involving violations and recalls in the case of Kosher foods also in the coming years, especially under the emerging scenario where food safety surveillance and implementation protocols become more stringent.