The Nuns at Sunday School Didn't Prepare Me For This
April 2, 2019 2:37 PM   Subscribe

I have a new-ish job as an office assistant. One of my tasks is to keep the office stocked with snacks, courtesy of my boss's Amazon account; however, my boss and many of his clients are Orthodox Jewish, and would prefer we get as much food as possible that's Kosher. How can I (a lapsed Catholic) make sure I do that?

I know in broad strokes what kosher is; I'm looking more for things that I can safely assume have been certified thus.

I've bookmarked a couple of "Kosher check" web sites and make sure that I filter for "Kosher" when I search for things on Amazon, but I still seem to get some conflicting information (i.e., Chex Mix comes up as Kosher on Amazon, and one site I have confirms that the regular flavor is, but another site doesn't have Chex mix on its list of Kosher snacks at all).

What I'm looking for is either:

a) the best possible resource to ascertain whether a given product is kosher (without having to physically look at the packaging), or

b) a list of guaranteed kosher snack foods that you can also plausibly order on Amazon.

Thanks - I was assured Smartfood was Kosher at one point and ordered it, and my boss gently pointed out that "actually it isn't" so I want to do better this time.
posted by EmpressCallipygos to Food & Drink (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Pesach is coming up and has extra food rules
posted by PistachioRoux at 2:46 PM on April 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

You'll want to ask what hechshers he holds by, and search on their websites.

Off the top of my head, for American vaads --

OU Kosher



OK or Circle-K

By far the most bang-for-your-buck site is OU, the first one I listed. The reason there's no good unifying source is, that, well, this is how they all make money.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 2:47 PM on April 2, 2019 [6 favorites]

Also be careful about Passover -- during Pesach, you need to search for Kosher'l'Pesavh foods, often marked with [vaad symbol]P. This should be mentioned on the vaad's website when you search.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 2:48 PM on April 2, 2019 [5 favorites] is probably the standard resource here (and you're probably using it already). I think you probably know this, but there are a variety of groups who do kosher certification (which is a process the company has to opt into for each product in each factory or whatever), and different groups of jews will consider a subset of those certifications as valid. So it is totally possible to have something marked kosher but the stamp won't be accepted by some particular jewish person. Given that, it seems like your best bet is to find a couple sites that do certification (your boss might or might not go for, get your boss to agree that these are valid references, and then look up every product there before you go to amazon. This is going to be a little annoying but you really can't rely on amazon's kosher setting since it's going to be at least partially self-reported and won't have the certifying agency, most likely.
posted by inkyz at 2:49 PM on April 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

Unfortunately this isnt going to be answerable - Kosher is in the eye of the beholder, as they say. There are various authorities that confer Kosher certifications and some folks dont accept the word of every authority out there (this may be less of an issue for packaged food than for restaurants, im not totally sure). This is probably why you cant find a universal list of kosher products.

A term to use would be 'pareve' which means neither milk nor meat and is therefor always kosher (im probably bungling that description, day school tuition be damned). i see a bunch of results when i plug that into amazon.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 2:49 PM on April 2, 2019 [4 favorites]

Admittedly this is more difficult to do via Amazon, but one food that is always kosher is whole fruit!
posted by mosst at 3:09 PM on April 2, 2019 [3 favorites]

You'll want to ask what hechshers he holds by, and search on their websites.

Seconded: different communities use different rabbinical authorities' definitions of kosher. Ask your boss what symbols to look for on food labels.
posted by dialMforMara at 3:16 PM on April 2, 2019 [4 favorites]

Also, look in his order history to see what your predecessor ordered?
posted by metasarah at 3:24 PM on April 2, 2019 [4 favorites]

In addition to the whole fruit mentioned above, many vegetarian snacks such as nuts, potato chips, and popcorn are also kosher (although some groups frown on corn during Passover, but Passover is only a week of the year).
posted by The Devil's Grandmother at 3:26 PM on April 2, 2019

I've seen booklets listing what products are kosher for passover at markets in orthodox/chasidic jewish neighborhoods.
posted by brujita at 4:24 PM on April 2, 2019

If you search the phrase "OU kosher" on Amazon you get a lot of results. If you search by category for instance "OU kosher chips", you can click through to what looks good to you and just confirm that it is kosher. It'll be in the "product description " section towards the bottom.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:00 PM on April 2, 2019

[ETA search in the "grocery" category obvs]

[ETA2: you can also search the phrase "kosher for passover" for stuff to use during Passover week]
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:09 PM on April 2, 2019

The OU Passover Guide is available online here and has an extensive list of brands and products that are KfP.
posted by Ruki at 5:34 PM on April 2, 2019

btw if your boss is the level of kosher where he's delegating this to you, he will be fine with an OU cert. OU is among the strictest, and the most widespread, of the certs.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:46 PM on April 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

We source almost all of our office snacks from (they have many things other than nuts) and they have a "kosher" filter. Details.
posted by olinerd at 6:19 PM on April 2, 2019

many vegetarian snacks such as nuts, potato chips, and popcorn are also kosher

See, this is what I'd thought, but apparently SmartFood popcorn is not. I think I need to go beyond the basic "here are the basic foods to avoid" and look for "the factory has been inspected and given the thumbs-up by a rabbi at some point".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:37 PM on April 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Okay, now I'm even more confused.

Here is a list on Frito-Lay's own site that claims to have the run-down of which of their products are or are not kosher. Or rather - here is a series of like four lists. I notice that Smartfood;s Kettle Corn is on the OU-D list on that page, but my boss says that it isn't Kosher. Would I be safe sticking to one of the other lists? If so that helps as a good yardstick.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:48 PM on April 2, 2019

What I typically think of as Smartfood is not their Kettle Corn, but their White Cheddar popcorn, which isn't on the kosher list. Status will vary not just by brand but by specific flavour since ingredients matter, as well as factory inspections.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:15 PM on April 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

I agree with the suggestion to try to find out what they ordered before (and what snacks the people in the office actually like). Aside from that, you're in Brooklyn, right? Googling for kosher groceries in Brooklyn brought up a bunch of online options (here's one example that looks like it could be useful).
posted by trig at 9:24 PM on April 2, 2019

(Sorry, I missed that it has to be ordered on Amazon, but you can look through the online stores and see what they carry.)
posted by trig at 9:29 PM on April 2, 2019

What I typically think of as Smartfood is not their Kettle Corn, but their White Cheddar popcorn, which isn't on the kosher list. Status will vary not just by brand but by specific flavour since ingredients matter, as well as factory inspections.

Ahhhhh, maybe that's part of it. I'd ordered a multi-pack of different flavors, and had been assured by a colleague that we'd gotten the kettlecorn before, but that colleague ate all of it within a week and change.

For the record - there is a chance that I might not be able to go back and review the earlier orders, since my predecessor did not wrap things up for her departure as comprehensively as one might have hoped. (She thought that she could leave her old computer there and I'd just be able to re-use it, and no one anticipated that the corporate head office would take it back and give me a brand new one, so all her notes about "how to do my job" refer to files on a laptop that is no longer in our state, much less in our office....) I've had to do a good deal of "blow up that account and start over" in my onboarding and so some historic information has been lost. I might still have access to the Amazon stuff, but just in case....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:06 AM on April 3, 2019

(I grew up Orthodox.) A guideline I would give you is: items that contain cheese or cheese products (other than, oddly, Cheeze-Its and their clones, which are often certified kosher for some reason), gelatin (this applies to many candies), meat/meat derivatives, or grape juice are unlikely to be certified kosher for weird reasons not worth going into here. For someone versed in this stuff (and to be clear, it seems somewhat unfair that you're expected to be), the cheese would have been a red flag to examine the multi-pack you ordered more carefully.

But ultimately, in the US, the culture is to go by symbols on the packaging rather than a list, so lists are not likely to be exhaustive and could potentially be wrong/out of date. If I were tasked with this I'd probably pick some snack foods by major brands that don't contain the above items and then examine the packaging (which you can do with the images on Amazon) for a kosher symbol (and also eyeball it when it arrives in the office, if I were responsible for definitely only bringing 100% kosher things into an office.) I would estimate that upwards of 60% of major brand snack foods in the US that don't contain the above items are certified kosher.

(Also I would confirm with your boss which symbols are OK with him and whether uncertified nuts and dried fruit are OK--they may not be. Absent any other information, OU, Kof-K, Circle-K, and Star-K are likely to be fine, as mentioned above. Triangle-K is controversial and I'd avoid it.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 6:53 AM on April 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

Trying not to threadsit, but wanted to just add that the boss isn't quite as tyrannical about this as I'm afraid I've made him sound! He said that having some things that were non-kosher for me and my other colleague is fine, he just wanted to make sure that the majority of stuff was kosher so he could offer them to observant clients. I'm actually trying to be more careful than he wants me to be!

Needs More Cowbell, you clarified the "smartfood kosher or not what the heck" thing for me nicely.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:41 AM on April 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

IME Oreos are ubiquitous in observant spaces because they're kosher, vegetarian, and non-dairy. Unfortunately, they're not kosher for Passover.
posted by bagel at 7:57 AM on April 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

And, yes, fresh, uncut fruit is always kosher. (Don't ask "why uncut?" unless you want... a whole spiel.)

Don't even look at corn-based things for Passover.

Once you feel secure in this and want to level up: It would be nice if you could try to balance out 'things that have dairy in them' (marked on labels with a 'D' after the kosher symbol) with 'things that don't have dairy in them', for reasons that have to do with if/when dairy can be consumed. Just... don't worry about this right now.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 6:23 PM on April 3, 2019


I found a webstore that focuses on "healthy snacks" that has a whole Kosher section, and most of what they sell is available on Amazon. Also - I DO have access to the past orders (and ironically, the variety pack popcorn I'd ordered WAS a repeat from before - I bet that the staff was just scarfing it all down before the boss knew the non-kosher stuff was even there before, heh). Between the two of these I just stocked up our pantry again.

A word on "kosher for Passover" as well - the boss is decamping to work from home that whole week, and his clients are similarly going to be laying low, so this isn't going to be as much of a concern, but I've made note and at least have some options available. Everything is in single-served snack paks as well.

Thanks guys.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:39 AM on April 5, 2019

IME Oreos are ubiquitous in observant spaces

For a long time those would have been Hydrox because Oreos were made with lard. Looks like they became kosher in '98.
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:00 AM on April 6, 2019

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