STAR-K Kosher Certification, Inc. made history, last month, when its Director of Development Steve Sichel, conducted the first non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) organic kosher inspection – allowing for triple certification for the ordinarily individually conducted, time-consuming inspections within a normal working day. The comprehensive audit was performed for the Hain-Celestial Group’s WestSoy product line, in Boulder, Colorado.
STAR-K Certification’s joint kosher and organic auditing program with Quality Assurance International (QAI) became effective January 1, 2009. QAI, in partnership with STAR-K, provides a joint kosher and organic auditing program. Through rabbinical supervision (and by cross-trained Organic inspectors), products can be certified to both kosher certification requirements and to the USDA National Organic Program standards for organic certification.
The joint program offers several advantages to the growing numbers of companies worldwide that opt for both organic and kosher certification, including streamlining the auditing process and reducing overall certification costs. To accomplish these goals, a number of STAR-K kosher inspectors are trained organic inspectors, allowing the internationally recognized agency to complete both audits concurrently. Although many dual Kosher -organic inspections have taken place since 2009, the Hain-Celestial Group’s recent inspection provided the first non-GMO-organic-kosher certification.
The rapidly, rising global demand for products bearing a trusted, recognizable kosher logo has been similar to the growth in demand for products labeled certified organic. These two intersecting trends have given rise to a flourishing new specialty food category – kosher organic. These products meet both the strict requirements of Jewish dietary laws and the USDA National Organic Program specifications.
Similar to the kosher and organic seals for verified products, the Non-GMO Project logo allows consumers the opportunity to make an informed decision when it comes to GMOs, which are presently estimated to be in more than 80 percent of packaged products in the average U.S. or Canadian grocery store. Many health-conscious shoppers feel that consuming GMO foods that have been modified through the gene-splicing techniques of biotechnology (also called genetic engineering, or GE), have not been proven safe.
Statistics provided by Mintel International, a leading market research organization, indicate that Kosher is the fastest growing ethnic cuisine over the past five years. Growth in kosher product sales were up 41 percent from 2003 to 2010, and they are projected to grow an additional 23 percent by 2013. The dollar value of Kosher ingredients sold in the U.S., alone, is $370,000,000,000.
Natural and organic food sales continue to grow, as well . The market is increasing as consumers seek out more foods that are healthier or perceived to have health benefits. According to Nielsen’s Healthy Eating Report (2010), people prefer organics for a host of reasons, including: the belief that they are healthier, pesticide-free, more nutritious, environmentally-friendly, taste better, not genetically-modified (GMO), supportive of small farmers and rural communities, the right thing to do ethically, and a vote against modern farming methods.
According to the Nielsen Report, in the U.S., annual dollar sales for products with label claims such as organic, natural, presence of fat, vitamins, fiber, caffeine, gluten, etc. range from a high of $46.6 billion for products with fat claims to a low of $56.6 million for foods with plant sterol claims.
“The triple audit went extremely well. It was certainly an efficient use of resources to have the audits done at the same time,” commented the Hain-Celestial Group’s WestSoy Tofu Quality Assurance Manager, Anthony Hodgson. “The Non-GMO and Organic audit had some commonalities, as the auditor would ask a specific question it was already addressed by another audit and vice versa. Therefore it was an efficient use of everyone’s time. Going forward I would definitely recommend doing the audits together.”
“The new alliance between STAR-K, QAI, and The Non-GMO Project highlights our shared commitment to help companies provide high-quality, kosher certified, non-GMO organic products in a more efficient and cost-effective manner,” said STAR-K President Dr. Avrom Pollak. “Clients want stacked audits as a way to create efficiency and eliminate multiple audit fatigue – it is the clients, themselves, who are operating multiple certification/verification programs that find it helpful to work with an agency that can perform stacked audits. Like STAR-K, QAI and the Non-GMO Project are dedicated to helping consumers know that they are getting real value from certified products. Having realized that many companies have all three certifications, we feel that the bundling of our certification efforts will add further efficiency and value on behalf of consumers throughout the world.”
STAR-K Kosher Certification, a not-for-profit agency, is one of the most trusted kosher certification organizations in the world. With offices throughout the U.S., China, Australia, and Israel, STAR-K certifies food products and establishments, as well as industrial food chemicals, in well over 1,500 locations worldwide. The agency is internationally renowned for its extensive research on the complexities of food science and modern technology, as they apply to the laws of kosher, putting it on the cutting edge of the ever-growing multi-billion dollar kosher food industry. It is one of the foremost experts in the field of kosher pharmaceuticals, nutritional supplements, and medications. For more information about STAR-K, call (410) 484-4110, or visit our site..
Founded in 1989, QAI (Quality Assurance International) is the leading provider of organic certification services verifying organic integrity throughout the supply chain (qai-inc.com). Additional certification services include gluten-free, kosher, non-GMO, natural personal care, social responsibility and food safety through its parent company NSF International. QAI remains dedicated to the environment, while providing educational outreach to the organic community, customers and consumers. Headquartered in San Diego, Calif., the company has grown to include operations in the U.S., Canada, Latin America, Japan and the European Union.
The Non-GMO Project, a non-profit organization founded in 2008, offers North America’s only third party assessment, verification and labeling for non-GMO food and products. It is committed to preserving and building sources of non-GMO products, educating consumers, and providing verified non-GMO choices. With the help of technical consultants FoodChain Global Advisors, and fueled by the passion of a dynamic array of industry leaders, the Non-GMO Project has successfully created a collaborative non-GMO verification program. Working at every level of the supply chain, all the way back to the seeds, the Project’s role is to inspire and ensure viable non-GMO alternatives long into the future. For more information, visit www.nongmoproject.org .
For more information on Star-K Kosher Certification and QAI Organic Certification, or to learn more about a comprehensive non-GMO organic kosher audit, please contact Steve Sichel at here or 410-484-4110, ext. 224.