The Technology Behind a COR Potato Chip
As described by Rabbi Sholom H. Adler, Director of Industrial Kosher Operations
If you are like me, you may occasionally enjoy “noshing” on a bag of potato chips, and as a consumer, satisfying this craving is a rather simple process: go to a local store, pick up a bag, check for a COR logo and indulge. But it’s really not that simple. Have you ever stopped to think of how those chips were manufactured and how they came to have a kosher certification? In the next few paragraphs I will take you through the process from raw ingredient to finished product of how a kosher potato chip is born.
CORporate Kosher, COR’s web based system and database facilitates each step of the way by maintaining records for various steps which I will point out. CORporate Kosher allows COR’s kosher companies to maintain their ingredients, products, formulas, brands and private labels. It facilitates the storage of inspection history and provides various reports to assist in scheduling hashgacha visits. It enables online application for kosher certification of new products and changes to existing products. It can generate and customize kosher letters of certification. It maintains kosher tanker details and history. Indeed, it’s pretty amazing.
Before a facility can begin to think about manufacturing a product, the raw ingredients must be determined. For potato chips, the list appears simple: one: potatoes, two: oil and three: flavorings.
But things are not always as simple as they seem.
Each ingredient a company uses must be uploaded into CORporate Kosher where the rabbi will check to see if that ingredient is indeed kosher certified. An ingredient can come from all over the world so accurate kosher certification must be ascertained.
The ideal potato to use for chipping should have low moisture content, be round in shape, have low sugar content and minimal bruising. Sugar causes the chips to turn dark brown during the frying step which companies deem undesirable. For frying, sunflower, peanut or canola oil can be used. Here the kosher requirement becomes somewhat more complex. Not only does the oil need certification but the tanker car that delivers the oil must also be kosher. CORporate Kosher has the ability to record which raw ingredients are used as well as the exact tanker used for the delivery. The oil could be processed in a facility that refines lard and tallow therefore careful monitoring is required. In addition, processing additives must be certified kosher.
Next, the tanker delivering the oil is monitored that it only carries kosher ingredients. The tanker company sends in monthly reports of the tanker activity delineating the material it carried and the point of origin and destination. This information can be stored and validated using CORporate Kosher. Periodically the mashgiach must visit the offices of the tanker company to review their log book and verify the information that was sent to the COR.
In addition to the potato and oil, various seasonings are added which also require kosher certification. “Seasonings” may sound innocuous enough but they can often pose kosher concerns. For example, one potato chip manufacturer that approached COR for kosher certification thought that their products were “already kosher” but upon closer examination, we discovered that the seasonings they were using were derived from lobsters.
Many times, a company asks us to assist in finding kosher ingredients for them. This is facilitated by CORporate Kosher’s search ability, which allows a company to find kosher ingredient substitutes.
Once the ingredients and method of delivery are confirmed kosher, the raw potatoes at the manufacturing plant start the process of become chips. Special machinery at the plant checks the potatoes for quality, washes them, peels them, and then slices them into the desired thickness.
Now the potatoes are ready for the fryer where the kosher oil is added. This stage is more complex since cooking is now introduced. The first kashrus issue is to ascertain that the fryer is only used with kosher oil and ingredients. If not, a complete koshering must be done prior to frying the potatoes. Once the fryer is koshered it is maintained as kosher with the help of the COR mashgiach and subsequent productions do not require koshering.
The COR policy for bishul yisroel, (where the cooking must be done or at least started by a Jewish person) does not apply since potato chips are considered a snack food. Bishul yisroel would be applicable when the cooked food is fit for serving at a banquet.
At the next stage, the potatoes move to the tumbler where the salt is added. At this point there is no kashrus concern. The chips travel along a conveyor into the next tumbler. The temperature of the oil in the fryer is approximately 300° F, so the potatoes coming out of the fryer are very hot.
If the chips are going to be seasoned then the seasonings will be applied at this point. There is a large variety of potato chip seasonings; some can be non kosher as we mentioned and some can be dairy. Since the seasonings are applied at this stage the heat will conduct a non kosher flavor into the tumbler when non-kosher seasoning is used, which is why the mashgiach must check the kosher or dairy status of the seasonings. When dairy or non kosher seasonings are introduced, kashering must be performed after the run to ensure that subsequent tumbling with kosher and pareve seasonings will yield pareve chips. In the case of previous dairy seasoning and no kashering, the chips must be labeled as “dairy equipment” (or DE) to denote that they were made using dairy equipment.
The final step is the packaging and the mashgiach must verify that the proper labeling is being used on all of the end products.
Regular unannounced kashruth inspections are performed in order to ensure that if there’s a COR on the label, kosher consumers can trust that the product conforms to the highest standards of kashruth. On his inspection visit, the rabbinic inspector may bring his COR iPad with him where he can file his report and have access to the entire CORporate Kosher system at his fingertips. His inspection record is then stored in the CORporate Kosher database thereby keeping a full history for the facility.
So, the next time you open a bag of COR certified potato chips, you can think of the specially selected raw potatoes, the kosher tanker used to haul the canola oil, the certified seasonings, the fryer, the tumbler, the packager, the rabbi who inspected the facility at each stage of production and finally, and the CORporate Kosher program that stored all the relevant information and maintained the entire process.