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During the last several months there have been several new ice cream and frozen yogurt stores opening around Chicago and the country. Some are stand- alone stores while others are located in malls.
Many of these locations profess to sell kosher products under the certification of the cRc or other reliable agencies, and even have signs posted to indicate such. Unfortunately, while they may sell certain products that are kosher certified in their original factory sealed containers, most of the actual stores are not certified kosher. These letters only apply to the un-opened ice cream and yogurt that is listed on the letter of certification, and not necessarily to the store itself. Merely asking the store attendant if an item is kosher is not sufficient, as they may not be aware of specific requirements that may affect the kosher status of an item. One must see the actual product in its original sealed container and be able to ascertain that the product in the container or soft serve machine is the same that you saw in the original factory box and not a “token kosher box”. Regarding soft serve ice cream, one must verify that there is a kosher symbol on the label of the “bag-in-box” soft serve mix. If the mix is made in-house, the store must be certified kosher for the soft serve to be acceptable.
In some cases, the scoop must be first washed clean. Any other products purchased, such as cones, toppings, or any other additives must also be inspected to determine if they are kosher. Items such as cakes and novelty items may be coming in from another outside source, so special care must be taken when purchasing any of these items. Since one may not assume that there were no changes made since the last visit, this all must be done each time you go into the store to make a purchase! There are many kashrus issues that can pop-up at non-certified stores; these are just a few of the more common concerns.
As the average person may not be aware of all of the kosher regulations, it is always preferable and recommended to only frequent shops under a reliable kosher supervision. Check with the cRc in the Chicago area, or your local Orthodox Vaad in other areas for the stores under a reliable kosher certification.