By Rabbi Tzvi Rosen, Star-K Kashrus Administrator; Editor, Kashrus Kurrents
Walking through a candy store leaves one with little doubt that great creative genius has been a long time associate of the candy industry. It is an absolutely amazing act of wizardry to see the multitude of confectionery varieties, shapes, textures, and tastes that can emerge from sugar, chocolate, and corn syrup. Chewy caramels, cotton candy, lollipops, chocolate pralines, nut logs with creamy nougat fillings, the list is endless.
So what could be wrong with candy? Especially if the ingredient panel states only simple, natural ingredients? Not so simple.
At times a product may have nothing that presents a Kashrus problem, but at other times the seemingly identical product can be very problematic.
Let’s take a behind the scenes tour of Kosher candy manufacturing, where we can examine the production processes and procedures of some of the popular delicious confections enabling us to pinpoint the Kashrus issues germane to the candy industry.
Chocolate is the undeniable king of confections. Today the global production of cacao beans exceeds two billion pounds. Before reaching the chocolate manufacturer, the pods containing the cacao beans are split open so that the beans can be naturally dried and fermented. Chocolate manufacturers receive the beans and remove the seeds called nibs. The nibs contain the natural cacao fat, cocoa butter. When finely ground the nibs are transformed into chocolate liquor.
Chocolate liquor is very versatile. It can be hardened into unsweetened baking chocolate, pressed into cakes and ground into cocoa powder, or used as the major ingredient in chocolate making.
Milk chocolate is the combination of the following ingredients: chocolate liquor, whole milk solids, granulated sugar and extra cocoa. The raw ingredients are mixed and refined into a smooth paste. The chocolate mass then goes into a conch, a large mixing trough that rolls, blends, and smooths the chocolate. Soy lecithin is added to the mix to help emulsify the chocolate mixture. Emulsifying helps the ingredients combine into a smooth liquid. The chocolate is conched for seventy-two hours. Some conches are open, others closed, some use metal paddles, others use stone rollers. Kosher for Passover chocolate does not contain soy lecithin because it is Kitniyos.
The critical Kashrus challenge facing the chocolate industry today are the production issues raised when the conch requires Kosherization. Whatever the method of conching the chocolate, the chocolate is heated through the mixing. The frictional warmth heats the chocolate beyond 120°F, yad soledes bo. This heating process raises the crucial issue of Kashering the conch when a company desires to produce both Dairy and Pareve chocolate or Cholov Yisroel milk chocolate using the same conch. How do you Kasher a conch? Although boiling water is the normal means for Kashering, purging with water, hagala, is impossible since water is the nemesis of all chocolatiers. Water can ruin chocolate’s consistency and can be a source of bacterial growth.
Some Rabbinic Authorities permit companies to use Pareve liquid chocolate for Kosherization; while other Halachic Authorities don’t consider liquid chocolate to be a suitable means for Kosherization and will only allow the equipment to be Kashered with water. It is for this reason that many milk free chocolate products bear Dairy Equipment (DE) certification. Some chocolate manufacturers have the luxury of a separate Pareve system.
After the chocolate is conched, the now blended chocolate can be made into chocolate bars or other chocolate formations or it can be made into large 50 pound blocks and sold to confectioners that use the chocolate for molding or coating nuts, fruits, candies and cookies.
Confectioners generally use copper kettles to melt the chocolate blocks for molding. Kashrus issues that have to be addressed are plentiful. Does the confectioner use the kettles for milk and Pareve chocolate. Are the kettles properly Kashered? Does the confectioner coat Dairy, Pareve, Treif, or Cholov Yisroel candies using the same depositors without cleaning or Kashering? Does the confectioner coat Kosher and non-Kosher varieties, such as marshmallows? Are the marshmallows Kosher? Does the confectioner rework, i.e. remelt old hardened dairy chocolate products that will be used in fresh pareve productions? Or, does the confectioner find milk chocolate too fickle and decide to take an easier route and use compound chocolate or blended chocolate instead?
What is a compound or chocolate blend? In the United States, in order to be called authentic chocolate, cocoa butter must be an integral ingredient in the chocolate mix. Although first quality chocolate uses cocoa butter, there are inherent drawbacks with its use. Cocoa butter is more expensive. Real chocolate not properly handled in the production process can burn or harden when melted. What is the industrial answer to real chocolate? Compound chocolate. Compound chocolate is a blend of chocolate liquor, powdered milk instead of fresh milk, emulsifiers and oils, sans cocoa butter and lecithin. This chocolate is a cheaper grade of chocolate that is more malleable for melting, but has stiffer ingredient issues to pursue, namely the oils and emulsifiers. White chocolate is an example of a chocolate blend, as are chocolate coatings used to coat candies.
Hard candy making is a unique candy-making art form. For a hard candy maker to carefully hand stripe large red corn syrup stripes onto a white amorphous mass of peppermint flavored white corn syrup, that when reduced will form perfectly shaped peppermint sticks, is nothing short of masterful. Hard candy is an ingredient combination of hot corn syrup or liquid sugar with a full spectrum of colors and flavors added to create a complete array of lollipops, peppermint sticks, and sourballs. Aside from the close Kosher monitoring of flavors and colors, the key Kashrus issue with hard candy production is the monitoring of the release agents that assure the hardened mass does not adhere to the work table or the formers. Release agents can be of animal, vegetable, or synthetic origin, thereby requiring a reliable Kosher certification. Again, as in other industries, rework is also an issue the must be resolved.
One of the relatively recent Kosher candy making advances has been the reintroduction of reliable Kosher gelatin, made under reputable Kosher supervision, onto the Kosher candy making scene. As every candy loving maven knows gelatin is an integral ingredient in marshmallows. Marshmallows are a creation of sugar, gelatin, starch and flavors that are cooked, compressed and extruded through a straw-like extruder, molding the marshmallows into the desired marshmallow shape. The one very crucial concern that the alert Mashgiach has to be aware of is the problem of compatible ingredients. Most Kosher runs of this kind are made in facilities that may be making marshmallows of all descriptions. Therefore, it is important that careful controls be exercised so Kashrus will not be compromised.
Kosher cotton candy is now taking its prominent place on the shelves of other pop-in-the-mouth treats. Cotton candy is created through an amazing process where sugar is heated for a split millisecond at an extremely high temperature. At that flashpoint, the sugar bursts into that fibrous delicacy known to us as cotton candy. Aside from the sugar, colors and flavors are also blended therein. It is interesting to note that with this technology the colors and flavors come to the manufacturer in powdered form so that the ingredients can be properly blended. Often these flavors and colors are atomized and dried to a powder in a large cone shaped spray dryer. Spray dryers can be quite large and quite costly to purchase. Some manufacturers spray dry their products at an outside facility. Other flavor companies that spray dry at their own facility can and will spray dry Kosher, non-Kosher, Dairy, and Pareve flavors on the same equipment. Because of these concerns, spray dried flavors often come to the production with the signature of the Mashgiach assuring the end user that both the spray dried flavor formulation and the equipment upon which the liquid flavor was dried was 100% Kosher.
With the advent and awareness of fat free food, air popped products have become a new rage. Air popped rice and corn products have widely proliferated and have gained great popularity. Enrobing a bland popcorn in chocolate or caramel magically transforms healthful to tasty. Ingredients and equipment must carefully be monitored in these production facilities as Treif cheeses may be used on the same equipment.
Bulk & Repacked Candies:
Today, a more economical way of purchasing favorite sweet treats is at the bulk food section of your supermarket, or in convenient repackaged cellophane bags. Often when purchasing candies in bulk, the individual candies remain wrapped in their foil or cellophane units and can be identified as a Kosher candy. Some candies are loose and unwrapped. Unless the store has Kosher supervision, once the individual units leave the original packaging, the original Hechsher is no longer effective.
Lately repackaged candy has been very popular and there have been instances where the Hechsher on the label is different than the Hechsher on the actual candy in the bag. This occurs because the repacker may schedule a special run in the candy company, or the Kosher certification agency may approve the candy’s Hechsher and permit the repacker to pack the candy under his own Hechsher.
Modern techniques, creative minds, new conceptions, and wide eyed, hungry children of all ages are a surefire formula for candy’s continued success. As always, processes must constantly be reviewed and reevaluated to assure that the candy lover’s soul as well as his sweet tooth are satisfied.