88% of the products sold in supermarkets in Israel have duplicate kashrut certifications resulting in excess costs to both suppliers and consumers. Analysis by IDI experts Finkelstein and Abensour reveals why reform is overdue
Ariel Finkelstein and Gabriel Abensour, researchers at the Israel Democracy Institute, conducted an analysis of kashrut certifications in the food production industry in Israel, ahead of a Knesset committee discussion on this topic today (Thursday).
"According to our findings, there is no justification for the Chief Rabbinate's monopoly in overseeing the certification of food production in Israel, because in any case the vast majority of products receive their kashrut approvals from private entities. The existing reality leads to unnecessary duplication of kashrut certifications and to excess costs to both the suppliers and the consumers. The reform currently promoted by, Matan Kahana, the Minister of Religious Affairs, to open up the kashrut market to competition is a particularly welcome initiative with implications for the field of food production, and is expected to lead to a reduction in product prices."
• 88% of the products sold in supermarkets have duplicate kashrut certifications (out of 751 products reviewed, from various products and companies - just 12% products had only a Rabbinate kashrut certificate. An additional 9% had three kashrut certifications.
• The cost of fees paid to the religious councils in the food production industry amounts to about NIS 8 million per year.
• By law, all businesses in Israel who want to display a kashrut certification, must apply for one from the local Rabbinate in the location of the business. Any other certification is in addition and since most of the food products sold in Israel receive additional kashrut certifications - these are excessive and unnecessary costs for the food production industry.
• In Israel there are 3413 kosher businesses in the food production industry - most of them are food factories (1,911) bakeries (762) and catering businesses (438).
Kosher food products, by the number of kashrut certifications
Kosher food products, by the type of food and the number of kashrut certifications
|Rabbinate Kashrut only||2 Kashrut Certifications||3 Kashrut Certifications|
|Frozen fruits and vegetables||38%||56%||6%|
|Meat, chicken and meat substitutes||34%||61%||5%|
|Snacks, sweets and cereals||12%||84%||4%|
|Pasta, rice and legumes||0%||88%||13%|
This analysis reveals that in the field of food production there are almost no products that have only the rabbinate kashrut, and most of the products have additional certification from a private entity – and some even hold three kosher certificates. This phenomenon shows that many of the food production industry do not have a real need kashrut certification from the state-run rabbinate, but that they apply for such licensing merely only because of the legal obligation to do so. The current situation makes it difficult for businesses and imposes excessive costs. First, businesses are required to pay a kosher fee to the religious council, which we estimate to cost NIS 7 to 8 million a year, and in some places there may also be a double payment for the supervisor's work. Second, businesses are obligated to comply with the requirements of local rabbis that may be different and inconsistent with those of private kashrut bodies, even though they have no real interest in a kashrut certificate on behalf of the rabbinate.
The necessary solution to this situation is the privatization of a kosher system, or at the very least to allow businesses to obtain a kosher certificate from a private rabbinic entity, without the need for additional certification from the local rabbinate.