Generating over $12 billion in annual sales, kosher food is big business. It is also an unheralded story of private-sector regulation in an era of growing public concern over the government’s ability to ensure food safety. Kosher uncovers how independent certification agencies rescued American kosher supervision from corruption and turned it into a model of nongovernmental administration.
Currently, a network of over three hundred private certifiers ensures the kosher status of food. But at the turn of the twentieth century, kosher meat production in the United States was notorious for price-fixing, racketeering, and even murder. Reform came with the rise of independent kosher certification agencies which established uniform industry standards, rigorous professional training, and institutional checks and balances to prevent mistakes and misconduct.
In overcoming many of the problems of insufficient resources and weak enforcement that hamper government efforts, private kosher certification holds important lessons for improving food regulation in areas such as food safety, front-of-package labeling and ecolabeling.