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Law and Bills Digest Section
This quick guide provides an overview of Kosher
food certification in Australia.
It complements the quick
guide on Halal certification.
Kashrut is a
body of Jewish law that prescribes what foods can and cannot be eaten, and how they
must be prepared and eaten. Kosher foods are those that meet the standards of
Kashrut and hence are ‘fit’ or ‘proper’.
What is permitted?
dietary laws are extensive and share a number of similarities
with Halal. In relation to meat, if it is derived from an animal that has
cloven hooves and chews its cud, it is permitted. Examples of kosher
animals in this category are sheep, cattle, and goats. However, to be eaten,
the animal must be slaughtered in accordance with a ritual Jewish slaughtering
method called shechitah.
Shechitah involves a ritual slaughterer (a shochet) using an
extremely sharp knife to slit the animal’s throat and sever the trachea, oesophagus,
carotid arteries, jugular veins and vagus nerve in one quick action. The blood must
also be drained or removed from the animal before it is consumed (there are
exceptions in relation to fish). The goal of shechitah is to minimise the pain
experienced by the animal before dying and to cause almost instantaneous unconsciousness
What is prohibited?
There are basic
principles which determine if a food is prohibited. First, certain animals
(for example, pigs) are forbidden from being eaten. The meat, eggs, milk and
other derivatives of these animals (such as gelatine) fall within this
restriction. Second, eating birds and mammals is prohibited if not slaughtered
in accordance with shechitah. Third, some parts of permitted animals may not be
Other prohibitions include the consumption of meat with
dairy products and the consumption of grape products made by non-Jews. More
information about Kosher foods can be found at:
Why is food certified as Kosher?
Food certification organisations ensure that strict
standards are met by producers or manufacturers before they are entitled to
label their food with the relevant certification trade mark. Non-religious
examples of certification standards include those for organic food, free
range eggs, and perhaps the best known, the Australian Made certification.
Producers and manufacturers obtain certification to more effectively market
their products to consumers.
As with other food certification
systems, to be considered Kosher, food must meet the rules laid down by the
organisation from which the food producer or manufacturer is seeking
certification. Once the relevant standards are met, the food can then be
packaged and marketed as having been certified as Kosher by that organisation.
Australia’s Jewish population was estimated
in 2011 to be 112,000 people, constituting 0.5% of the Australian
population. By certifying food as Kosher, Australian producers are better able
to cater for that portion of the domestic market, and may also find the
certification useful for exporting to Israel and the United States.
Who can certify food as Kosher?
As with other food certification systems, a range of
different Kosher certifying organisations exist in Australia.
Kosher food certification within Australia occurs through the
three main bodies, the Kashrut Authority of Australia and New Zealand
(based in NSW), Kosher Australia (based
in Victoria) and Kashrut Authority of Western
Australia. However the Senate Economics References Committee (the
Committee) noted in its 2015 report on
third party certification of food that:
...no certification authorities operate in Queensland, South
Australia, Tasmania or the Australian Capital Territory, reflecting the distribution
of Australia's Jewish population. In states without certification authorities,
the local Jewish communities rely on kosher supervision undertaken by the local
rabbis, and will often source specialised kosher products from NSW and
What is the certification process?
As with other certification processes, Kosher certification
follows a series of steps:
- The relevant food producer or manufacturer applies
to the relevant certifying organisation (for example, Kosher Australia). This
usually involves providing detailed information about the raw materials,
ingredients and additives, and the manufacturing process.
- An inspection of the manufacturing site is then conducted by an
appropriately qualified person on behalf of the certifying organisation to
determine whether all the relevant requirements are consistently being met, and
a report is prepared. The applicant may be required to alter their
manufacturing processes or ingredients, or to provide further information about
their supply chain.
- A certification agreement is then concluded between the applicant
and the certifying body, and Kosher accreditation or certification is awarded
for a period of time.
Does Kosher certification increase
costs to consumers?
The cost of obtaining Kosher certification varies depending
on the product involved, the organisation from which certification is sought,
whether the goods are for export or domestic consumption and the type of
accreditation sought. However, the fees are often modest.
For example, the Kashrut Authority
charges between $500 and $2,200 for domestic certification and between $2,200
and $6,600 for export certification. Kosher
Australia charges between $1,500 and $3,000 for domestic certification. As
a result, for large-scale manufacturing the cost of certification in the
context of overall manufacturing, advertising and distribution costs has
little, if any, impact on a product’s price.
What are certification funds used
The funds raised from certification applications can be used
for a variety of purposes beyond the payment of usual business expenses such as
salaries, taxes and superannuation. This can include providing funds for a
variety of charitable and community causes.
In 2015 the Committee conducted an inquiry
into, and reported on, third party food certification. As part of that process,
issues around Kosher certification were examined and the Committee recommended
that ‘meat processors clearly label products sourced from animals subject to
As of the time of writing, it does not appear that this
recommendation has been implemented.
The Quick Guide was produced with research assistance by Jolanta Olender and
Abraham Williamson, interns from the Australian National University College of
Law. The author thanks Paula Pyburne, Senior Researcher, Law and Bills Digest,
for her input.
Senate Economics References Committee, Third party
certification of food, The Senate, Canberra, December 2015, p. 6,
accessed 16 January 2017.
Ibid., recommendation 7.
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