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Friday, August 28, 2015

Kosher Water

While thinking about the medieval Ashkenazic prohibition against drinking water during the solstices and equinoxes, I became curious about the kosher supervision of some bottled waters.

I asked the Orthodox Union to explain why products such as Poland Spring water required supervision (Poland Spring and other brands of bottled water have an "OU" certification).  See the exchange below.

But I am not convinced that Poland Spring "requested" -- or would request -- kosher supervision for marketing purposes. And, even if they did, wouldn't the OU have a moral obligation to decline the request as unnecessary?

The response is fairly good spin by the OU.  And it makes a very strong case that they are in the kashrut business for profit.  A dot-com, rather than a dot-org.

Webbe Rebbe (The Orthodox Union Help Desk)
Aug 28, 10:19
Thank you for contacting the OU.
If a company requests OU certification, the OU will certify the product even if it does not technically require supervision. From the company’s point of view, the OU is a beneficial marketing tool which extends far beyond the Jewish kosher consumer, as many people prefer to purchase products that are inspected and certified. If the OU would refuse to certify innocuous products, this would create ill-will or tension between the OU and manufacturers, and would no doubt diminish corporate interest in kosher production.
For the kosher consumer, there is an advantage as well to purchasing a certified product. In theory, it is possible for any item to be prepared in a manner that would render it non-kosher. For example, the OU once discovered that a particular brand of bottled water was pasteurized on equipment used for non-kosher production. While this is a rare occurrence, the presence of the OU symbol insures with absolute certainty that the product is kosher. Even if the possibility of a product being produced in a non-kosher manner is highly remote, the OU visits the production sites of all products bearing an OU to guarantee the kosher status.
It is also true that kosher consumers do not always know what products do not require supervision, and the OU kosher symbol prevails as a mark of trust for the Jewish community.
Please do not hesitate to contact us again should you have any further questions.
The Web(be) Rebbe
Orthodox Union Kashruth Division

Davids Zinberg
Aug 25, 20:13
Please explain why bottled water (e.g., Poland Spring, Dannon) requires kosher supervision by the Orthodox Union.

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