With several Jewish holidays on the horizon, now may be a good time to ask yourself if your food service management operation caters to folks who eat strict kosher diets. These days, it’s not just hospitals in primarily Jewish neighborhoods that should be offering kosher meals – every patient’s nutrition and satisfaction is important, which means most hospitals should have a plan in place when a kosher meal is needed.
According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the diet office of most major hospitals is responsible for obtaining kosher meals, and many purchase them from caterers and serve the food with disposable utensils, in accordance with the laws of kashrut, which is Judaism’s body of dietary laws. Of course, some smaller hospitals, particularly those in Jewish hubs like Brooklyn and Manhattan, choose to set up their own kosher kitchens with chefs and rabbis who are familiar with the restrictions.
Whether your customers are primarily Jewish or not, it’s a good idea to have kosher menu options available, regardless of whether your facility cooked them or you bought them from a caterer. You should also be familiar with a few of the fundamental kashrut laws. Here’s what you need to know.
Kosher rules and regulations
There are many specifics when it comes to what’s kosher and what isn’t, but to simplify it, here are the basic guidelines.
– The meat, milk and eggs of certain animals and birds are kosher, but some animals’ products are forbidden. A mammal is only considered kosher if it has split hooves and chews its cud. Most bird species that aren’t predators or scavengers are kosher.
– There are laws pertaining to how the kosher animals are killed, and there are specific parts of them that can never be eaten, like certain veins and fats, and the blood.
– Meat and dairy products are never combined in kosher meals. Separate utensils are used for each type of food, and people must wait for a period of time before eating one after the other.
– Fruits, vegetables and grains are usually always kosher, but they have to be inspected for insects, which aren’t kosher. Grapes are an exception: Wine and juice must be certified as kosher in order to be allowed.
– Seafood is allowed only if the fish has fins and scales. Therefore, things like shellfish, catfish, lobster, crabs, oysters and muscles are forbidden.
If you’re ordering kosher meals from a caterer, the staff will be familiar with these laws and will make sure that each hospital menu item is approved. If your facility plans to make its own kosher food, a rabbi or specialist should be consulted.