OU, Kof-K, OK, Star-K: The "Big 4" Kosher Supervision Agencies

  • 01 of 04

    OU Orthodox Union

    The OU Pareve kosher symbol on a container of corn starch. © Miri Rotkovitz

    Founded in 1898, the Orthodox Union (OU) is one of the oldest and largest Orthodox Jewish organizations in America. Though the OU is extraordinarily active in efforts ranging from youth services, community engagement, Jewish education, political advocacy, social action, synagogue services, and more, it is perhaps best known for the work of its OU Kosher Division.

    The OU hechsher's simple logo of an "O" surrounding a "U" is cited as the most recognizable kosher symbol in the world. It appears on over 800,000 products, produced, per the OU, "in over 6,000 plants located in 92 countries..." To maintain this deep market reach, the OU employs some 600 Rabbinic Field Representatives, who travel to food production facilities around the world, inspect equipment and ingredients, and supervise manufacturing processes to ensure they adhere to strict kosher standards.

    Over 50 Rabbinic Coordinators headquartered in New York, along with food scientists and other support staff, help coordinate and orchestrate the OU's kosher supervision efforts. Thanks to the OU's size, market penetration, and the cache of its ultra-recognizable hechsher, it has earned clients from all sectors of the food world -- from major international manufacturers to small artisan outfits. 

    The OU's website offers extensive resources for both manufacturers and consumers, including articles, a product search feature, downloadable Passover guides, and a web app. 

    • Major clients: Blake Hill Preserves, Chiquita, Coca Cola, H.J. Heinz, Hershey's, Kinnikinnick Foods, Kraft/Nabisco, Lake Champlain Chocolates, Li-Lac Chocolates, Michel Cluizel, Minute Maid, McCormick & Co., Pillsbury, Pom Wonderful, Sheila G's Brownie Brittle, The Cheese Guy, Tito's Handmade Vodka, Trader Joe's
    • Address: 11 Broadway, 14th Floor, New York, NY 10004
    • Phone: 212-563-4000
    • E-mail: E-mail inquiries can be submitted to the OU via its contact page at http://oukosher.org/contact-us/
    • Website: www.oukosher.org
    Continue to 2 of 4 below.
  • 02 of 04


    The Kof K Kosher symbol on a box of cookies. The D denotes dairy ingredients. © Miri Rotkovitz

    The Kof-K has been in operation for nearly 50 years, and notes that it was "the first kashrus organization to introduce computer technology to the complexities of kashrus supervision/management." Not only does the Kof-K maintain comprehensive databases of kosher ingredients and suppliers, but it makes them accessible to it's kosher supervision clients, in part to help them make informed choices regarding product development and reformulation. 

    Recognized throughout the world, the Kof-K has regional coordinators based throughout the US, as well as in Canada, Europe, South America, Central America, Australia, Europe, Asia and Israel. The Kof-K also maintains a website in Chinese to cater to its food manufacturing clients in China. On the consumer section of its website, Kof-K also offers kashrut alerts, guides, and its digital Food for Thought Magazine

    • Major clients: Breyer's, Cadbury Schwepps, ConAgra Foods, Ghirardelli, Good Humor, Hain Celestial Group, Lipton, Pepsi, Rich's, Stash Teas, Terra Chips
    • Address: 201 The Plaza, Teaneck, NJ 07666
    • Phone: 201-837-0500
    • E-mail: info@kof-k.org
    • Website: www.kof-k.org
    Continue to 3 of 4 below.
  • 03 of 04

    OK - Organized Kashrut Labs

    OK Dairy Kosher certified pancake mix. © Miri Rotkovitz

    Established in 1935, Organized Kashrut Laboratories -- better known as "the OK" -- currently bestows kosher certification to over 400,000 products produced by more than 2,400 companies. Headquartered in New York, the OK also operates regional offices in Europe, China, Israel, Mexico, India, and Russia. The agency employs over 4,500 kosher supervisors, and is proud of its pioneering embrace of technology in its kosher supervision efforts.

    The OK's proprietary DigitalKosher system enables its team to track "nearly 800,000 products, ingredients, formulas and manufacturing processes, and the effective dates for each." To that end, the OK states, it can provide "transparent, paperless, efficient and secure certification," as well as efficient identification and resolution of problems and issues.

    The consumer section of OK's website offers product searches, a vegetable checking guide, access to its digital magazine, Kosher Spirit, and more.  

    • Major clients: Athenos, Baked by Melissa, Barkan Winery, Blue Diamond, Capri Sun, Cream of Wheat, Domino, Dorot, Eden Foods, Hunt's, La Choy, Nantucket Nectars, Ortega, Pam, Perrier, Post, Swiss Miss, Tropicana, Yoplait
    • Address: 391 Troy Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11213 USA
    • Phone: (718) 756-7500
    • E-mail: info@ok.org
    • Website: www.ok.org
    Continue to 4 of 4 below.
  • 04 of 04


    The Star K Kosher symbol on a container of sea salt. © 2014 Miri Rotkovitz

    When the Star-K was established over 50 years ago, it served the Baltimore Jewish community exclusively. And though it still feels like a hometown certifier to many Maryland locals, the kashrut organization is in fact one of the largest in the world.

    In addition to providing kosher supervision for consumer foodstuffs and industrial ingredients, the Star-K is notable for its certification of so-called "Sabbath Mode" kitchen appliances

    • Major clients: Aunt Gussies, Del Monte, Empire Kosher, General Mills, Herr Foods, Kikkoman, Kol Foods, Lake Champlain Chocolates, La Tourangelle, Marukan, Roland Food, Theo Chocolate, Trader Joe's, Utz, Whole Foods
    • Address: 122 Slade Ave., Suite 300, Baltimore, MD 21208
    • Phone: 410-484-4110
    • E-mail: star-k@star-k.org
    • Website: www.star-k.org