Shailah of the Week by Rabbi Zvi Nussbaum
Rabbinic Coordinator, Kosher Hotline Administrator for the Orthodox Union
Is Arnold’s Bread Kosher?
If you are confused about the kosher status of Arnold’s Bread, you are not alone! Here’s why: In November of 2018, BimboBakeries, the manufacturers and distributors of many popular breads, announced that they are dropping their OU kosher certification of several of their breads.
The decision created a firestorm in the kosher community with hundreds of comments on online platforms. Many rabbis also used the pulpit to protest the Bimbo move. So why drop the hechsher?
Arnold’s wanted to introduce a bread which would contain a high percentage of buttermilk, making the bread dairy. Since the OU cannot certify breads that are dairy, they took off their certification.
The change to dairy upset many valued kosher customers. No more bread at the fleishig dinner table?
This led to intense and lengthy negotiations with the company at the very highest level. In their usual cooperative spirit, Bimbo worked together with the OU to find the requisite solution to what was indeed a difficult situation. The OU negotiated with the company, and, thanks to the extraordinary consumer pressure, Bimbo decided to keep their original recipe and continue to be certified by the OU as a means to produce kosher bread, buns, and rolls.
Since the company is still working on new packaging, one or two products were erroneously printed without the OU symbol, and as an interim measure the OU allowed the use of a sticker bearing the OU name and symbol to be placed on packaging. The company in the meantime is working on printing all product bags with OU certification. If your item was previously kosher and does not bear a symbol you can do a product search on the OU website to find out if they are still certified.
The US story of Bimbo Bakeries began in 1994 when Grupo Bimbo – Mexico’s largest baking company with operations in 21 countries – purchased La Hacienda, a California-based tortilla company. Bimbo Bakeries USA then entered the U.S. bread market in 1997 with the acquisition of Pacific Pride Bakeries of San Diego. It now owns most of the baking brands in the US including Entenmann’s, Thomas’ and Boboli. In 2009, Grupo Bimbo purchased the remaining U.S. fresh baked goods business of George Weston Ltd., adding brands such as Arnold’s, Brownberry, Freihofer’s and Stroehmann. It also owns Sara Lee’s bread business.