Critical Study on Kosher Seals

Please find below a link to read KosChertified’s research titled “A Quantitative Study of Kosher Certification: Seal Visibility and Public Awareness”. Further below you’ll find a link to the spreadsheet containing our measurements and observations. Below our excerpted “Context” introduction are the pertinent photos of our samples.

A Quantitative Study of Kosher Certification: Seal Visibility and Public Awareness

Context: Mass kosher-certification of retail food and kitchen products began almost one century ago in America, and yet there are conflicting reports as to the visibility and recognition of kosher-certification seals on product labels by a broad range of consumers[1]. The first product certified was Heinz vegetarian beans in 1923; the certifying agency was OU –  Orthodox Union of Jewish Congregations with their now ubiquitous OU seal. While kosher agencies claim[2] that the kosher seals attract better business for companies, others dispute their marketing advantage for the simple reason that most Americans are not kosher aware. OU Kosher ironically admits this on their web page Why Go Kosher in the very first sentence: “Most Americans eat kosher food every day, but chances are they’re not aware of it.”

It is common to hear complaints that kosher seals are obscure, small and unnoticed, and that this religious intervention in their food production is not transparent enough. Evidence[3] supporting this aspect came early on from OU Kosher, when Rabbi Alexander S. Rosenberg wrote in a 1966 article that “the [OU] symbol was devised…in an unobtrusive way that would not offend the sensibilities of other faiths.” He also expressed the fact that it was “small”.  However, in contacting[4] the director of OU Kosher Marketing today, they claimed that they can only “recommend to [their] customers where and how to display the [symbol]…but cannot dictate.” And so, while the kosher industry exploded from certifying about 1000 nationwide products in 1960 to well over one million today, many[5] called this business “a racket”.

The first mainstream challenge to this industry occurred in 1954, when a prominent member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Mrs. Marian M. Strack, made an impromptu speech at a Trenton DAR conference claiming that “clandestine kosher markings on canned goods symbolize how a bold minority can impose its will and even its religious observances upon an apathetic majority”[6]. Her speech reported on many controversial aspects of the kosher industry that still exist today, and newspapers all across the country attacked her. Today, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) takes up the largest defense of the kosher industry in its published internet article “The ‘Kosher Tax’ Hoax: Anti-Semitic Recipe for Hate”[7].

Whereas a perusal of the ADL article reveals extensive use of smear terms such as “bigots”, “anti-Semites”, “extremists” and “Hate”, seemingly to scare off any legitimate criticism of the kosher industry, the organizations contesting it resort to labeling this religious business practice as “the kosher tax”, which is mocked by the agencies. The kosher industry and food market analysts publish many reports supporting the remarkable revenue growth in the kosher industry, but there seems to be a mysterious irony to its increased popularity – unfamiliarity by mainstream populace[8]. The purpose here is to examine the Kosher Seals themselves in order to determine if this sheds any light on why there is such disparity between the growth of the industry and the public awareness of it.

There does not appear to be any university or market research on Kosher Seals, especially one that compares them to Other Seals found on the same products. This study addresses the topic and gives an objective and rational methodology to determine which has more credulity – (1) Mrs. Strack’s “clandestine” description, (2) the ADL’s insinuations that anyone speaking about the topic is a conspiracy theorist or extremist, or (3) a new conclusion based on our findings. This research allows science to be the judge.

Click our link at the top to read the rest of this study.