Sunday, January 30, 2011
Catering standards questioned
More disappointing was it to learn that the “Rabbonim” who certified the affair never visited an affair under their certification which was being held in a non-kosher facility. Kashrus researchers recently discovered a number of such organizations where the “Rabonim” themselves have never seen the operation which they certify, but instead rely totally on the head “Mashgiach” or on their Kashrus Administrator to make all “halachic” decisions..
This letter, basically unchanged, was mailed to all of the “Rabonim” in the organization. We have not received any reply.
Dear Rabbi ........ BS”D
I would be remiss if I do not report to you directly just what I observed of the procedures used at an affair supervised by your Hashgocha organization which was held in a non-kosher establishment. At a recent affair where I was a guest, I went into the kitchen with another Rabbi. Having been shown around by the Mashgiach on duty, we had the following concerns which we hope you will address.
1. The non-kosher facility was allowed to leave their non-kosher utensils out in open view of the waiters and kitchen staff. By utensils, I mean ladels used to serve soup, etc. and eating utensils. Needless to say, with a little preparation these could be kept out of sight of the non-Jewish staff so as not to tempt them to use them.
The Mashgiach said to me, “I’ll give you $100 if you find a non-kosher utensil on the floor.” The Mashgiach himself goes onto the ballroom floor from time to time to check if utensils are mistakenly used. This means that the possibility does exist. It also means that he is not constantly in the kitchen. Then why leave the utensils out at all?!
I understand from your head Mashgiach that he had advised the Mashgiach on duty to allow the eating utensils to remain in hands reach, but covered. Instead, the Mashgiach put them 8 feet away, completely uncovered. Why should this be allowed? It is inviting trouble.
I also observed some 6-8 (non-kosher) ladels hanging in full view. It takes a worker seconds to grab one & put it into the soup. (See also #5 that no ladels were marked in any way.) This is one of the reasons why accidentally non-kosher utensils sometimes (too often) get taken back in error from an affair held at a non-kosher facility. (All too common.)
2. Since a) the affair was fairly large (500 plus guests), b) the Mashgiach does leave the kitchen to check the floor as well as for personal needs, and c) non-kosher equipment is in full hands-reach of the staff, I feel that such an affair requires 2 Mashgichim, not just one. (See # 6.)
3. The Mashgiach allowed the waiters to use the non-kosher (uncovered) trays for serving hot foods. This is not an accepted procedure anywhere, as far as I know. Should a hot piece of chicken fall onto the the tray, would that not constitute a serious problem?
4. Only a part of the kitchen was kashered. Quite understandable. However, it seems inappropriate to have different kosher zones spread throughout the kitchen area. Better would be to cover with paper the entire area from the ballroom side until where the kosher food is prepared, not to leave open spaces that are not kosher between where the food is cooked, prepared & served.. It is so easy for a worker to put a hot pot on the nearest space available.
5. There were places which the Mashgiach did not kasher which we feel do need kashering. Some counter spaces had raised racks over them. The underside of the raised racks were not kashered nor covered. This presents a “zeah” (vapor) problem, one which kashrus agencies do know to address. (It could also be a problem of actual food leftovers, because no-one even bothered to examine the underside of the racks. See also next paragraph.)
The Mashgiach at the affair told me that indeed this is a problem and he would make an effort to cover the bottoms of the racks in the future.
We also noted a pole in the middle of the production area which we felt should have been kashered, not just washed, and/or should have been draped with some material. The pots and pot covers do touch this pole while they are hot. Although the Mashgiach washed it, he neither kashered nor covered it.
6. None of the caterer’s ladles were marked for meat. This caterer does both meat and dairy at his commissary. I was told by your head Mashgiach that since there are so few dairy ones, only the dairy utensils are marked. Although Shulchan Aruch advises marking one type of utensils, the common procedure today, wherever I observed, is to mark both dairy & meat serving utensils, especially if catering in non-kosher facilities also, & paint does wear off. We must be able to distinguish between the caterer’s kosher utensils & the facilities non-kosher utensils.
7. While we were waiting, we saw some of the staff go to another room, eat non-kosher pizza, bring the boxes into the kitchen & then resume serving, with no washing of hands between eating the non-kosher pizza & serving a glatt kosher meat dinner. The Mashgiach did not respond until the problem was pointed out to him. Then he asked one or two workers to wash. This is an additional reason why I feel that the affair needs another Mashgiach.
I hope that these issues have already been raised to the Rabonim of your organization & that the Rabonim consider the present methods acceptable. I would like to understand where my reasoning is faulty. It is for this reason that I am sending this letter to the Rabonim certifying your kashrus organization.