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Jul 7, 2004 08:20 AM

Heksher "K"

  • k

When I first started keeping kosher four years ago, I had a Chabad Rabbi come to my home and help me kasher the kitchen. He told me never to trust a plain "K" as a heksher, since it could mean "kangaroo" for all we know. He did say that the K on Kelloggs cereal was fine. Does anyone know of a list of other plain "K"s that are accepted by the Orthodox or Conservative community? Thanks.

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  1. It's my understanding that a plain K is an honor system type sign of kashrut, ie the ingredients and machinery have no non-kosher components or usage. I'm sure of the kashrut pubs would have a better explanation though.

    12 Replies
    1. re: DeisCane

      The way the system works is that an organization (i.e. Union of Orthodox Rabbis) trademarks a symbol, in this case, an O with a U inside. Then they license it out to companies they see fit. Since it is trademarked, a company MUST have their permission to print it on their products and the OU has a right to ask for compensation. This works the same for any trademark. NOTE: The system works this way for Kosher products, but could also work this way for any company. For example, Intel Inside. Not anyone can put "Intel Inside" on their computer, only a company which Intel allows to use their symbol can because it is trademarked.

      The letter K (or any other individual letter) cannot be trademarked. Thus, a can of spam may legally put a K on the side. So a "K" by itself is meaningless and cannot universally be trusted. However, some companies (see below) are kosher. For some reason, they choose not to put a trademarked symbol on their packaging and put a K instead (others put none and all and are still Kosher - Coke and Budweiser for example). In this case, despite the fact that they are Kosher and they are certified by a reputable organization, they do not display a symbol, other than "K".

      Some products which are kosher when bearing only a K (according to the CRC and Dallas Vaad) are:
      -Kellogs cereals
      -Tabasco hot sauce (just the hot sauce, not all products)

      1. re: texasmensch

        Coke actually puts the certifying entity's mark (in their case, I beliebe it is the OU) on their bottle caps - although it is possible that this is not done by all Coca-cola bottlers.

        And which hashgacha does budweiser have? (not that they really need it)

        1. re: Beerhound
          Moshe Horowitz

          Coca-Cola has an O.U. on some of the bottling plants caps other plants do not display it as they feel it does nothing for them. Pepsi has a K representative of R' Zevulan Charlop not an organization. Budwiser has no seal but Coors has either an O.U. or O.K. There is most definitely problems with "dark" beers even today 2004

          1. re: Moshe Horowitz

            What's the problem with "dark" beers? I've seen and heard it told that wine is used to give some (imported, according to some accounts) dark beers their dark color, but having extensively researched beermaking (to the point of making my own ales), it just doesn't make sense to me. The easiest, most convenient and inexpensive way to make a dark beer is by using darker malted grain, and I've seen no evience that any brewer operates otherwise. (That's not to say that all imported beers can't have wine added - I've heard rumors about a particularly esoteric Belgian Ale that uses it - but that is for flavor, not color)

            1. re: Beerhound
              Moshe Horowitz

              There are blended whiskies that have and are still using "specified" casks that had been used previously to make wines.
              The coloration of wine is due to the amount of grape skin added to make the wine darker. Wine in and of itself is a clear liquid.
              Some of the dark European beer producerss used & still use grape skins to make their beers darker colored so they could save on adding the extra malt.

              1. re: Moshe Horowitz

                I don't see what the practice of aging blended (and from what I understand, single malt) whisky has to do with beer, though I agree that according to many poskim, that is a problem.

                But I still don't get the beer issue. Can you name which European brewers are known to have used or still use wine skins for color?

                To clarify what I wrote, to create a darker beer, it is not necessary to use extra malt, but rather to use the same amount of darker-colored malt. So I'm stil not sure why one would use grape skins or any other wine-related product for color alone.

                1. re: Beerhound
                  Moshe Horowitz

                  If you taste a beer by the name of "Noche Buena" produced in Mexico & it comes out in the beginning to middle of December is a dark beer as it is all the dredgings at the bottom of their tanks. It is sweet & unassuming & after 2 it is Noche Buena.

                  Yes, you can use dark malt to darken beers. As far as what European beers that use grape skin, give me day or two(bli neder) to back to you with the names.

                  In European countres, wine is cheap and the grape skin is easy to come-by so they used as there were cooperatives that would work together. Wine was never used. You will find the following little tidbit interesting: They have used in American wine making animal blood to darken their domestic wines. Conservative Jews are permitted under their whatever to use domestic wine.

                  1. re: Moshe Horowitz

                    I had heard of Noche Buenna, but doubt that it (or any other "dark" beer) is made from "dredgings" at the bottom of fermentation tanks. What accumulates at the bottom of a brewery's fermenter is dead yeast and yeast by-product. (If the beer is a lager, I think some live yeast may accumulate at the bottom as well - remember, the main difference between lagers and ale is that the former is made with bottom-ferementing yeast at low temperatures, while the latter uses top-fermenting yeast strains at higher temperatures.) Otherwise, there is little difference between the product at the top and bootom of a fermenter tank or barrel.

                    The "bottom of the barrel" is an American myth that I've heard told about German bock and double-bock beers, which are usually stronger, sweeter and often darker than the average lager. This more intense flavor and color (as well as higher ABV) is achieved by using higher amounts of more intense malts, while at the same time putting in less bittering hops.

                    Noche Buenna appears to be a throwback from a time when many Mexican beers were imitations and variations on the German dark lagers (also known as Christmans bocks - hence "Noche Buenna"), although the Mexicans might have used a little more hops than the Germans do.

                    1. re: Moshe Horowitz

                      Also, with regard to the animal blood, hostorically it has been used as a clarifier (which, as by definition is not intended to remain in the final product, might be treated more leniently in halacha), although in these modern times other clarifiers such as gelatin are used which also create potential difficulties.

                      I was under the impression that in the U.S., blood as an additive to wine was illegal, and even as a fining agent may no longer be allowed by the gov't due to mad cow issues.

          2. re: texasmensch

            Slight corrections: The OU is the symbol of the Union of Orthodox *Congregations*, not the Union of Orthodox Rabbis, which is a completely separate organisation, with no connection to the OU. The rabbinic organisation loosely affiliated with the OU is the Rabbinic Council of America. The UOR is the oldest rabbinic organisation in the USA, and the one with the most prestigious history, but in the last decade or two it's been in a bit of a decline.

            There actually is a non-food symbol which is similar to hechsherim: the UL on electrical appliances. If you make an electrical appliance and want to market it in the USA, you can get the UL to check it out and authorise you to print its trademark. The UL is a private company that makes its money by charging for certification, just like the various hechsherim. Almost every appliance in the shops has this symbol, because consumers know (or should know) to look for it. If an appliance hasn't got a UL, be very wary about buying it.

            One reason companies sometimes prefer to use a simple K is that they have several factories, each under a different hechsher, and they don't want to have to print different packaging for each factory. By just putting a K they can use the same packaging everywhere, and if you want to know who actually stands behind the K they will tell you who does it at each plant, and how to decipher the batch number to tell which plant your box comes from.

            1. re: texasmensch

              can you please tell me what kellogs cereal is kosher that has a k on it.

            2. re: DeisCane
              Moshe Horowitz

              FYI: In the State of New York, if a K is displayed and a statement of kashrut is made there has to be a certificate even if the place is self certified.r

            3. From Kosher Quest (Rav Eliezer Eidlitz)(2003):
              Reliable "K" hechshers include:

              Starbucks Frappuccino
              SpanglerÂ’s Dum Dum Pops
              McHilliny Tabasco Sauce
              Crystal Lite Powder
              Western Bagels in Package

              Also, I'm fairly certain that Malt-o-Meal cereals with a K are under the United Mehadrin Upper Midwest Board of Kashrut (the ones who supervise Ferrara Pan candies).

              1 Reply
              1. re: Eric
                Moshe Horowitz

                The list from "kosherquest" is feedback from the Star K organization as Rabbi Eidlitz checks everything with the Star K. Rabbi Eidlitz also looks at things with a slanted view as he too gives hasgacha (vested interest) on places during Pesach. We all live in glass houses

              2. m
                Moshe Horowitz

                Companies use what I call a "generic K" so that they can alsways change supervision without having to change the symbol on the box or whatever. There are plates that are made in order to print these packaging items and they are costly.
                Kellogg's for many years had been under the supervision of the Massachusetts Vaad now under the O.U. - no better supervison just more money for the secondary organization