And how often do I get to post from my favorite blog, Consumerist, on Jewschool? I’m gonna grab this baby and run with it:
We all know that people have been -for quite some time- acting under the mistaken notion that kosher = healthy. I seem to recall some major war in Poland between two different rabbis and their organizations over who got to oversee Polish vodka production because people there were convinced that kosher meant better product.
Now, Chinese exporters are betting that kosher certification can convince foreign consumers that their wares are safe. It’s just another marketing tool for them, of course.
Consumerist quotes the San Jose Mercury News:

Many Chinese companies were unfamiliar with the concept: One furniture maker asked for kosher certification, drawing a polite rebuff. Another facility asked to get certified as kosher even though it was smoking eel on site, a kosher no-no. The company was turned down; it is now building a separate, kosher-only facility.
And many companies weren’t ready for the grilling the rabbis gave them on their first visits to their plants, seeing it as a sign of distrust. “In China, everything works on relationships,” said Grunberg of the Orthodox Union, which certifies more than 400,000 products worldwide.

The News, also notes that according to the OU, Kosher certifications by rabbis have doubled to more than 300 in China in the past two years. Originally, it was apparently to get access to the kosher market, $11.5 billion U.S a year, but after the rash of problems with contaminated pet food, toothpaste, seafood and the like, Chinese exporters have turned to kashrut certification in order to assure people that their product is safe.
There might be some benefit to having kashrut oversight: since 2001, the Orthodox Union has required makers of products it certifies as kosher to place a code on their packages identifying the plant where it was made so the product can be traced in a recall. However, since September of this year, all Chinese food exports have been required to have this code by Chinese regulators.
It doesn’t especially bother me, really, though, I must admit. While I don’t think that hashgacha is likely to make the products safer (or at least not much) at least there’s the possibility that there will be more interesting products at my local cheapo grocery that I can buy. I can’t tell you how excited I was when I found some very tasty red bean flavored steamed buns with a nice OU on them!