New York – They are two words you don’t often find together on the same product packaging: Bacon. And kosher.
But the newest variety of Ritz crackers is a bacon and black pepper flavor, and ironically, the product which is certified kosher by the Orthodox Union, actually contains dairy ingredients.
According to Rabbi Moshe Elefant, the chief operating officer of the OU’s kashrus division, despite the unusual nature of certifying a bacon flavored product, it is something that has been done numerous times before.
“We have had the same debate on all imitation related products, not this one more or less than any other,” Rabbi Elefant told VIN News. “At one point we were deciding whether or not to certify imitation crab – should we, or shouldn’t we? In the end, it is a good debate because both sides are right.”
When giving its approval to products of this nature, the OU is vigilant about proper package labeling.
“One thing we do insist on is that it is clearly marked as an imitation, not the real thing,” noted Rabbi Elefant, who said that there had been an issue approximately six months ago with a bacon flavored potato chip whose designation as an artificially product was not noted as prominently as the OU would have liked, a problem that has since been corrected.
Rabbi Elefant said that he understood that many would be uncomfortable eating a bacon flavored product, even one with rabbinical supervision.
“It is your choice,” said Rabbi Elefant. “If you aren’t comfortable eating it because of dietary rules or because of moral feelings, then don’t eat it.”
Ritz crackers were introduced by Nabisco in 1934 and are available in a variety of flavors including regular, whole wheat, roasted vegetable and garlic butter.
Ritz was eager to have the new crackers certified by the OU, according to Rabbi Elefant, who said that many items in the Ritz product line are certified by the agency. Despite the precedent of having previously certified flavors that might be considered by some to be unconventional, the OU held meetings to determine if it should give its stamp of approval to the bacon flavored crackers.
“The OU’s position is that we are here to certify food that is kosher and to make food available to the public,” explained Rabbi Elefant. “We are not here to tell anyone to eat anything. If you don’t want to eat pastrami because it has cholesterol, then don’t eat pastrami. The only food we can tell you you must eat is matza. Anything else is up to you.”
Ritz cracker remains the top savory snack for consumers in the U.S, according to published reports.