Savour the spread of the KLBD logo
WHEN MARM I T E w a s restored by the London B e t h D i n t o k o s h e r a p p r o v a l last summer, it was like welcoming back an old friend. According to records in the LBD’s office, the savoury spread was first confirmed as kosher a hundred years ago.
But the London Beth Din was forced to remove it from kosher circulation in 2000 — not because of any problem with the ingredients but because of production methods, when Bovril, which has animal extracts, was manufactured in the same plant.
While only the 70g Marmite jar has so far been cleared by the rabbinic authorities, Rabbi Jeremy Conway, director of the Beth Din’s kashrut division (KLBD), says there are plans to make other sizes available.
Marmite’s return demonstrates the Beth Din’s success in attracting iconic household brands. The latest edition of its lists 8,500 items in all — probably four times the number contained in the first guide, which appeared nearly 30 years ago. “We have almost a thousand new products this year, which is unusual,” says Rabbi Conway.
While it may take time to persuade an established manufacturer to come on board, smaller producers are quick to see the opportunities for extending the reach of a new product. People have their eye on the global market, Rabbi Conway says. “In terms of certifying new companies, we are growing in leaps and bounds.” If you are looking to export to America, for example,
Inquiries from the public also help the rabbis discover areas of demand. Newly certified fruit or cereal bars respond to a call for food on the run. A growing stream of niche products caters for the health-conscious.
People travelling for business or pleasure also want to know, for example, what fish they can eat overseas. One recent query concerned the “alfonsino”, a red-skinned variety also known as the Tasmanian snapper.
To determine its kashrut status requires a call to somewhere like the Natural History Museum, to find out if its scales qualify under halachah and also to the Australian Beth Din, which might be more familiar with this fish. And yes, the ruling was that you can have alfonsino and chips.
The fact that around 2,000 items now carry the KLBD’s own logo shows how far the kosher trade has grown in recent years. When the guide first came out, the Beth Din had only seven cafés and restaurants under supervision; now it has 25, not counting more than 20 further establishments licensed by other batein din in London.
More choice means more competition — which can help keep prices under control. In fact, Rabbi Conway points out, some brands cost less in the UK than they do in Israel. When it comes to keeping kosher, he says, “I don’t think it’s ever been so easy and exciting to be Jewish in Britain.”
Alfonsino aka the Tasmanian snapper: was it scaly enough to pass muster?