Last year's federal immigration raid on a company that manufactured kosher food items grabbed headlines and made some consumers question the ancient tenets that govern such foods. For them, the event helped spur interest in a movement that addresses ethical issues the regular dietary standard does not.
“Eco-kosher,” as it's called, has been around since the 1970s, but the renewed effort is bringing the issue to the forefront, online and elsewhere. One organization, Hekhsher Tzedek, has even developed a symbol to complement kosher certification. Magen Tzedek, which translates as “Shield of Righteousness,” incorporates standards for labor issues, carbon and water footprints, recycling and environmental impact. The certification was recently revised, and Hekhsher Tzedek hopes to have industry-ready guidelines by next year.
Rabbi Morris Allen, founder and director of Hekhsher Tzedek, said that the new seal is a “preventative to the unethical practices that have sadly seeped into the kosher food industry.”
The eco-kosher concept could do much to protect the tremendous gains kosher food sales have made over the past several years, largely propelled by concerns — from Jews and non-Jews alike — about food safety. According to Packaged Facts, sales of certified kosher items grew from $150 billion in 2003 to $200 billion in 2008 — double the rate of growth for the overall food market.