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Kosher & Halal certification: natural products with a pedigree; How dietary preferences have changed the formulation of products in the nutraceuticals market now and for the future.

Today's product savvy consumers want, expect and are entitled to quality food products. So it comes as no surprise that the tremendous interest, appeal and demand for Kosher and Halal natural products is rising fast. First and foremost, consumers of both Kosher and Halal products regard them as held to higher quality and standards, and rightly so. Shoppers examine ingredient panels and nutritional information, often questioning manufacturing procedures and ingredients. Kosher and Halal symbols, with the stringent certification, monitoring and care they represent, ensure the highest quality control and product quality standards without compromise.

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The colossal amount of business that these two formerly sleepy certifications generate, and the faith-based dietary laws that drive them, are in the spotlight. The numbers tell the story!

Exploding Growth for Kosher & Halal Products

The demand for Kosher certified products has burgeoned spectacularly over the years, with U.S. consumers forking over $195 billion (nearly 40% of all foods sold) on Kosher certified products, as compared to $1.65 billion in 1987. Sales of Kosher foods in the U.S. have jumped at an annual rate of 15% for the past several years, up 15% during the last 12 months, according to data released in November 2006 by Kosher guru Menachem Lubinsky, CEO of Lubicom Marketing Consulting. The annual survey pointed out that this is the 10th straight year for double-digit growth in the industry.

"The entry of Kosher products into supermarkets was a defining moment for the exceptional growth of Kosher products," explained Mr. Lubinsky. The number of Kosher packaged items (17,000 in U.S. supermarkets) is approaching 100,000, compared to 75,000 in 2003.

Lubicom statistics also indicate that over 11 million Americans purchase Kosher food products on a recurring basis, with nearly three times the amount (21% of all Americans) buying an occasional product. Although only a portion of that growth is fueled by everyday Kosher consumers (over 1 million), an increasing number of shoppers including Muslims, members of other religious groups, vegetarians and the health conscious reveal they buy Kosher products for a variety of reasons. More than 2500 new items from more than 10,500 Kosher producers were Kosher certified in the past 12 months.

In 2005 the Halal Journal reported a $150 billion market value for the global Halal food industry, embracing approximately 1.4 billion Muslims, in addition to millions of non-Muslims who choose to eat Halal certified products. In the U.S. alone, $12 billion in food products each year are gobbled up by Halal consumers, representing the single greatest demand for Halal products in a Western society outside of France.

"The U.S. market for Halal foods has experienced a dramatic burst of growth of approximately 35% per year," according to Jalel Aossey, board member of Islamic Services of America, who claims growth will continue to swell at a rate of 25-30% per year over the next five to seven years, based on market estimates.

The Halal market is on path to emerge as the most significant category in global food development, with the International Market Bureau of Canada reporting the potential value of the Halal market at $500 billion by the year 2010.

The retail food industry is finally starting to take notice, establishing programs and test markets for introducing and implementing a Halal category at store level--similar to what happened to the Kosher market when embraced by supermarket chains.

What it means to be 'Kosher' or 'Halal'

In the public eye, the Kosher symbol on a label represents more than a product that conforms to rigorous religious standards. It is valued as an independent verification mark of quality, integrity and purity and powerful safeguard--likened by some in the industry to the famous Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.

Rebecca Mark, director of communications for Baltimore, MD-based Star-K, one of the top four Kosher certifiers, shared the allure of Kosher this way: "Consumers trust the labeling of Kosher certified products. It's like an additional pair of eyes."

For all those requiring Kosher food products for religious or other reasons, Kosher certification is essential. Rabbi Yaakov Luban, executive rabbinical coordinator at the Orthodox Union (OU), New York, NY, claims it is impossible to verify the Kosher status of processed foods without certification. "Kosher is perceived as a higher standard, another group inspecting," he added.

Halal certification is vitally important to Muslim consumers interested in reputable and distinguishable differences in the packaging and presentation of Halal products, assuring that what they consume is handled within Islamic guidelines and requirements.

Muhammed Chaudry, president and executive director of the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA), Chicago, IL, shared some important insights about the growing market. "Halal consumers are very particular about what goes into their food products, as well as the way in which they are manufactured," he said. "The consumer perception of Halal standards is much higher than what the government requires."

The Halal symbol on a label, similar to the Kosher symbol, signifies more than a product that conforms to scrupulous religious standards. It is also valued as an independent verification mark of a carefully and closely supervised process representing quality, integrity, purity and an extra safeguard.

Far too few people in the natural products industry, like their consumer counterparts, don't understand what Kosher and Halal mean. Nor do they comprehend just how rigorous it is to certify and maintain products as Kosher and/or Halal. They also have yet to grasp the consumer and business values and benefits of these certifications.

The Kosher Certification Process

National agencies, a local board of Kashrut, or an individual Orthodox Rabbi dedicated to maintaining the integrity of the Kosher status of foods in accordance to the highest standards of Kashrus (Kosher law) can administer Kosher certification. Companies choosing to certify their products usually employ the services of one of four agencies--Kof-K, which is based in Teaneck, NJ, OU, Star-K and OK, which is based in Brooklyn, NY. They can also choose from approximately 700 others to design, implement and monitor a program for the production and certification of Kosher products to ensure that all Kosher requirements are met and receive a certificate attesting to that.

The Kosher certification process, which varies slightly by agency, begins with an application that enables a Rabbinic or Kashrus administrator or coordinator to build a profile of the facility. Required information includes the products it manufactures, the products it wants to certify as Kosher, ingredient lists, product data sheets, manufacturing procedures, quality control, cleaning procedures and more.

"The process is detailed, rigorous and exacting," explained Rabbi Pinchas Juravel, a Kashrus coordinator for Kof-K.

The application is reviewed to determine the feasibility of Kosher certification. Then a qualified rabbinic field representative will usually inspect and audit the facility to review ingredient lists, verify that ingredients submitted and approved are the same as in the containers supplying raw materials, review raw materials specification sheets, labels, SOP's and other documentation. Materials handling, the preparation, processing and production processes, sanitation and hygienic procedures and quality control procedures are also examined. In some cases, system and process modifications may be required before certification is granted. Next, a contract stipulating all requirements for Kosher certification is presented. If all conditions are met and accepted, a letter of certification is sent, which normally lasts for one year. Ongoing supervisory visits as frequently as once per month and a yearly inspection are typical.

The Halal Certification Process

Halal certifiers are comprised of scientific and religious experts in Halal that are dedicated to upholding the integrity of the Halal status of foods in accordance with the highest standards of Islamic dietary law. Certification is carried out by the major Halal certifying agencies: IFANCA, Islamic Services of America, Cedar Rapids, IA, and The Muslim Consumer Group, Rolling Meadows, IL. In addition, there are others that develop, implement and monitor programs covering all aspects of food production to ensure conformity with Halal Standards and issue a certificate attesting to that.

Halal certification, depending on the agency, begins with an application that collects information about the facility, the products it manufactures, and the products it wants to certify as Halal to determine feasibility. A facility inspection and audit are conducted to acquire the required information, such as ingredient lists, raw materials specification sheets, labels, flow charts and other documents. Preparation, materials handling, processing, quality control, hygiene and sanitation procedures are carefully observed. In some cases changes are required for Halal compliance. Next, an agreement including all necessary modifications is prepared. When all requirements are met, a Halal certificate is issued, normally for one year, or for each batch produced depending on the type of product. A yearly inspection and interim visits are typical.

Companies with Halal and/or Kosher Certification

With the spectacular rise in Kosher and Halal business, it's no wonder thousands of companies have obtained Kosher and or Halal certification. Now the natural products industry can readily call upon a growing smorgasbord of companies that produce Kosher and or Halal certified raw materials, ingredients, components and finished products.

For nutraceuticals and natural products, many companies are already on board with Kosher certified products, like Solgar, Bluebonnet, Natures Bounty, Natures Answer, Vitasoy and retail giant Vitamin Shoppe. In the raw materials arena, ADM, Ajinomoto, Anmar, BioBotanica, Cargill, Cognis, Danisco, DSM, Purac and Lallemand offer Kosher certified raw materials. Food giants like General Mills, Hershey, Kraft, Pepsi and Coke are also in the mix.

In the Halal arena, companies like Nutrilite, USANA, Herbalife, Pharmanex, Ocean Nutrition, GMP Labs of America, Sunrider, Reliv, Western Nutrition, PowerBar, General Mills, Lesaffre and HealthSpan Research offer Halal certified products.

Fortitech, a developer of custom nutrient premixes, is both Kosher and Halal certified.

"We see Halal as a form of guarantee that boosts our customers' trust and confidence in our nutrient premixes," said Peter Sorensen, managing director of Fortitech Europe ApS.

Capsugel, a leading manufacturer of two-piece capsules and maker of OU Kosher certified V-CAPS, now offers IFANCA certified Halal gelatin capsules.

The Glucosamine Controversy

Can shellfish glucosamine be certified Kosher? It depends on whom you ask. Some confusion surrounds the question about whether or not shellfish source glucosamine is a Kosher substance, and if it can be certified Kosher. While some opinions suggest that the end product is nothing like its starting material, or that health and medicinal uses in pill form allow applying a more lenient standard to certifying shellfish (not considered Kosher) glucosamine as Kosher, three of the top four certifiers, Star-K, OK and Kof-K, in sync with many other Kosher certifiers, will not certify it as Kosher.

The OU shares a different view. Rabbi Luban explained, "Shellfish derived glucosamine cannot be certified for food use, but can be certified Kosher for use in vitamins and medications." Rabbi Luban rationalized that a more lenient standard is applied to certify shellfish glucosamine as Kosher because of its medicinal application. In the end, it is a matter of interpretation rooted in religious law.

Fortuitously, the problem has been solved. Raw materials giant Cargill has developed Regenasure, a novel form of glucosamine HCL enzymatically derived from corn that is certified Kosher. Now consumers that would not previously take glucosamine because of its non-Kosher status can get their joint fix from Regenasure.

Kosher Foods

Meat. Only specific parts of permitted animals with split hooves that chew their cud and are supervised and slaughtered in accordance with Jewish law are Kosher. Kosher poultry, identified by tradition, includes the domesticated species of chickens, Cornish hens, ducks, geese and turkeys.

Dairy. Only milk products derived from a Kosher animal can be Kosher. All milk and milk products are considered dairy and may not be eaten with meat or poultry. Foods prepared with dairy ingredients or additives become dairy.

Pareve. Foods that do not contain meat or dairy ingredients are called "pareve," meaning neutral. All vegetables, grains and fruits in their natural state (all grape products--wine, juice, raisins, jams, flavors and extracts require additional Rabbinic supervision) are Kosher and pareve. Eggs from Kosher animals are pareve. Whole fish with fins and scales intact are considered Kosher pareve, but may not be prepared with meat products. All crustaceans, shellfish, reptiles, and insects are not Kosher. Pareve foods may be prepared with either meat or dairy, and take on the status of the food they prepared with. Pareve does not necessarily guarantee allergy safety for highly sensitive consumers because Kosheriza-tion, although extremely meticulous, does not necessarily remove every dairy molecule from the environment.

Utensils and Equipment. Separate utensils designated for meat, dairy and pareve use are required to prepare Kosher food products and are not interchangeable. Utensils that come in contact with non-Kosher food cannot be utilized with Kosher food. Kosherization, a specialized process, can be employed to change the Kosher status of Kosher and non-Kosher utensils.

Halal Foods

Meats. All meats are considered Halal except pork and its by-products, carnivorous animals, birds of prey and land animals without external ears. Animals improperly slaughtered or dead before slaughtering are not Halal, as are animals killed in the name of anyone other than Allah (God).

Dairy. Only milk and milk products derived from a Halal animal are permitted for Halal use. Cheese is Halal if the rennet or enzymes used to make the cheese come from a Halal animal.

Fish. All seafood is Halal, according to Quranic scripture.

Vegetables, Grains and Fruits. All vegetables, grains and fruits, in their natural state are Halal.

Alcohol and Intoxicants. Grain alcohol and intoxicants of any type in food products are not Halal.

Utensils and Equipment. Preparing Halal food products requires cleaning utensils that have come in contact with non-Halal food before Halal food processing. GMP procedures are acceptable for all utensils except those that have come in contact with pork.

References furnished upon request.

About the author: Gary Bushkin is a freelance writer and nutraceutical consultant based in Howell, NJ. He can be reached at 732-961-6097; E-mail: designwell@optonline.net.

By Gary Bushkin

Contributing Editor

RELATED ARTICLE: This article in a nutshell:

* Exploding growth for Kosher & Halal products

* What it means to be 'Kosher' or 'Halal'

* The Kosher certification process

* The Halal certification process

* Companies with Kosher and/or Halal certification

* The glucosamine controversy

* Kosher food

* Halal food

RELATED ARTICLE: Kosher 101

The Jewish religion contains a set of Kashrus (Kosher) dietary laws within its belief system, rooted in the Torah (Bible). The word Kosher is an adaptation of the Hebrew word meaning "fit" or "proper," referring to food products that meet the dietary requirements of Kashrus. The misconception that Kosher refers to food blessed by a Rabbi is unfounded.

Two factors control the procedure that determines and classifies Kosher and non-Kosher: the sources of the ingredients and processing agents, which must all be Kosher, and the status of the production equipment, which must be Kosherized before use. Kosher certification, a guarantee that the food meets Kosher requirements, revolves around these two criteria.

Identifying The Kosher Consumer

Integrated Marketing Communications reported that 2.5 million Jewish consumers, comprising approximately 45% of the Kosher market, buy Kosher to insure their dietary preferences are met. But the appeal of Kosher foods reaches far beyond the needs and interests of Jews. In one survey, Kosher consumers, who believe that "Kosher is better," stated Kosher products provide health and safety assurances. A surprising 38% were vegetarians, and 16% ate Halal foods. Thirty-five percent commented that taste or flavor was the reason they bought Kosher foods. With only about 8% of people keeping Kosher all the time, its broad appeal is evident.

The Islamic Community. Millions of Muslims follow a dietary regimen similar to Kosher. Knowing that food products bearing a Kosher symbol conform in many ways to Halal requirements, Kosher foods have a wide appeal to Muslims, who represent approximately 20% of the Kosher market.

Other Religious Denominations. Seventh Day Adventists and other Christian sects have dietary restrictions similar to Judaism. A Kosher symbol assures the food is permissible for their use.

The Health Conscious. Millions of people with dairy allergies or lactose intolerance are also fans of Kosher certification. Because Kosher dietary laws require complete segregation between meat and milk, products containing a dairy ingredient must show the Kosher symbol with the letter D.A "Pareve" designation or the absence of the letter D assures that the product was not produced with dairy ingredients or came into direct contact with any dairy derivative, but does not exclude the possibility of trace contamination.

Vegetarians. For some vegetarians, a Kosher "Pareve" designation makes life easy by assuring that the product contains no meat, dairy, or poultry derivatives.

RELATED ARTICLE: Halal 101

The Islamic religion also contains a set of Halal dietary laws within its belief system, rooted in the Quran. Halal is an Arabic word meaning "lawful" or "permitted." In addition to a way of life, Halal refers to foods that are acceptable and conform to the laws of the Quran that meet the dietary requirements of Islamic Law.

Again, similar to Kosher, the process of determining and classifying Halal and non-Halal depends on two factors: the sources of the ingredients and processing agents, which must all be Halal, and the status of the production equipment. Halal certification, which guarantees that the food meets Halal requirements, revolves around these two criteria.

Identifying the Halal Consumer

Halal foods have a broad appeal to Muslims, who seek absolute assurance that food products strictly conform to Islamic guidelines. But Halal food products also have a diverse consumer base that extends beyond the Muslim community.

The Jewish Market. Non-traditional Kosher consumers purchase Halal products for quality, purity and safety reasons.

Other Religious Denominations. Seventh Day Adventists and other Christian sects have dietary restrictions similar to Halal. A Halal symbol assures that their dietary concerns have been met.

The Health Conscious. Millions of people with food allergies rely on Halal certification to assure accurate ingredient contents and freedom from contamination, making Halal food products a safe choice.

Vegetarians and Natural Product Consumers. Halal certification simplifies shopping choices for some vegetarians and natural product consumers, guaranteeing ingredient contents, purity and safety.
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Title Annotation:KOSHER & HALAL OVERVIEW
Author:Bushkin, Gary
Publication:Nutraceuticals World
Date:Mar 1, 2007
Words:3012
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