Kosher: Private Regulation in the Age of Industrial Food

By Weinstein, Aryeh | The Historian, Spring 2015 | Go to article overview

Kosher: Private Regulation in the Age of Industrial Food


Weinstein, Aryeh, The Historian


Kosher: Private Regulation in the Age of Industrial Food. By Timothy D. Lytton. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013. Pp. 240. $39.95.)

When a seventy-two-year-old cancer survivor dies from eating a contaminated peanut butter sandwich, we should be jolted into action. This thoroughly researched book raises awareness about the failure to have properly enforced regulation in our food industry. More importantly, it demonstrates how one area in the food industry--private kosher certification--has effectively implemented regulation enforcement despite its own failures until the second half of last century. Beyond the issue of regulation enforcement, this book will be of particular interest to anyone who wants to understand what kosher is and what is involved in the manufacturing of kosher foods. Lastly, it provides a fascinating history of kosher enforcement in America, including corruption, competitive backstabbing, politics, accusation, and scandals.

"Kosher" is not food blessed by a rabbi. The Bible enumerates which animals, birds, and fish Jews are forbidden to eat. Milk and meat are also forbidden to be eaten together. In addition, utensils that have absorbed any of the above are rendered un-kosher. Considering all of the above, comprehensive regulations and oversight must be implemented to ensure that the ingredients as well as production of kosher foods are consistent with the above rules.

Timothy Lytton spells out very clearly the numerous factors as to why kosher food certification has been so effective. One is consumer demand, which encourages companies to want their product to be kosher. Another factor is competition amongst over three hundred certification companies to brand themselves as reliable. …

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