NEW YORK (VINnews/Sandy Eller) – Recognizing the importance of the Jewish market to their collective bottom lines, overseas formula manufacturers have been working hand in hand with the Orthodox Union to ensure that their products meet the needs of the kosher consumer.
As previously reported on VIN News, the Food and Drug Administration relaxed its long-standing restrictions on imported formulas after the safety-related closure of a Michigan plant, the largest formula manufacturing facility in the country. The shuttering of the Sturgis Abbott plant left parents driving for miles to find formula for their babies, a particular concern for infants with digestive and metabolic issues who were medically unable to make the switch to a different brand of formula.
With an above average number of infants compared to the general population, the Orthodox Jewish community was hit particularly hard by the shortage. Rabbi Moshe Elefant, chief operations office for the Orthodox Union, credited the FDA for moving quickly to allow foreign formulas into the United States to alleviate the shortage.
As a significant agency within the world of food manufacturing, the OU was tapped to certify imported formulas and it recently gave its stamp of approval to plants in Singapore and Mexico, with certification pending on another in Spain.
“The fact that these companies realized that kosher had to be part of the solution even when things were so desperate speaks to just how far kashrus has come,” said Rabbi Elefant. “I would imagine that particularly in the area of baby formula, it is very clear that we represent a serious market.”
The OU received many calls from panicked parents during the height of the shortage, including one from a woman with cancer who was unable to nurse her baby.
“Her child needed a very specific type of formula and they had been running unsuccessfully from store to store trying to find it,” said Rabbi Elefant. “Rabbi Mordechai Stareshefsky, our rabbinic coordinator who specializes in baby food, among other products, was able to work with our connections to find a place where they were able to get the product they needed.”
The fact that overseas companies are appreciating the value of an OU endorsement is a point of pride for Rabbi Elefant. He noted that one English formula plant that produces formula for European consumption came to realize the value of venturing into the American market now that the FDA has relaxed its restrictions.
“They never turned to us for supervision before, but now that they see the opportunities and want to bring their product to the United States, they realize that they need the OU to make that happen in the best possible way,” said Rabbi Elefant.