Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Albany Law School professor Timothy Lytton has a new book, Kosher: Private Regulation in the Age of Industrial Food.  A key point is that this topic is more broadly relevant than one might think, because kosher food is just one of many examples of food regulation systems that can be adopted by the private sector.

Lytton was interviewed on the What is Your Food Worth? blog.
As a general matter, private food safety audits and industry-sponsored nutrition labeling schemes have been a great disappointment. Behind most major food-poisoning outbreaks is some private auditing firm that gave the food producer a phony five-star rating. And when nutritional rating schemes give high marks to sugary cereals and full-fat ice cream, you have to wonder.

As a kosher-observant Orthodox Jew, I realized that kosher certification offers a 2000 year old example of private food certification. My initial suspicion was that kosher certification was full of price gouging and unnecessary, super-stringent standards. As I began to get into my research, however, I found that, although fraud and corruption were rampant a century ago in kosher meat production, today’s kosher system is highly reliable. My book tells the story of how, within the span of a century, kosher certification became the one of the most reliable systems of private certification in the food industry, indeed, perhaps in any industry.

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