For the first time, a new kosher food certification will introduce food-safety standards into its assessment, according to the Vancouver, B.C.-based rabbi who is launching the program. The new certification, called “Kosher Check,” is designed to inform consumers that their food conforms not only to strict kosher standards, but also “enhanced food safety protocols.” The food-safety protocols will follow a number of industry benchmarks known as being among the “best practices.” Those include Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), Global Food Standards Initiative (GFSI), Foundation for Food Safety Certification (FSSC 22000), and British Retail Council (BRC). Kosher-certified foods are among the fastest-growing product segments in the food industry. Of the estimated 12 million Americans who purchase kosher food, only 8 percent are Jews who eat it exclusively for religious reasons. Much of that is due to the popular belief that kosher foods are safer or more wholesome. But kosher food, historically, does not cover food-safety standards in particular. In general, kosher certification requires only that the meat not be mixed with dairy products, is processed with equipment exclusively used for kosher products, and is slaughtered “humanely.” A recent study out of Northern Arizona University found that raw chicken certified as kosher harbored up to twice as much antibiotic-resistant E. coli as non-kosher poultry. In response, two prominent experts on koshers foods penned an editorial for Food Safety News arguing that there is no basis for believing that kosher meat involves the use of more antibiotics than conventionally processed meat. The difference, they said, may be explained by the fact that conventional chickens are washed in scalding water after slaughter – a practice that is forbidden, according to kosher laws. Instead, kosher-certified chickens are soaked in cold water to loosen their feathers for plucking, and therefore there is not the same opportunity to eliminate bacteria from the outside of the bird. The Kosher Check certification will mark products with a distinctive symbol that conjoins the letter “K” with a check mark, and feature the tag line, “Kosher Checked. Globally Accepted.”