Is Your Bread Still Kosher? Arnold’s Bread Manufacturer Drops the OU
JNS.org – Bimbo Bakeries USA, which owns many of the nationally-distributed bread and bun brands in the United States — including Arnold’s, Thomas’, Sara Lee, Stroehmann, Freihofer’s, and Entenmann’s — recently decided to drop the world’s largest kosher symbol, the OU (Orthodox Union) certification, from many of its products. Arnold’s breads and several of the other brands in Bimbo’s portfolio have carried the OU symbol for more than three decades, creating multi-generational customer loyalty.
Arnold’s, in particular, is relied upon in markets where kosher-certified bread products are sparse.
Because bread is often be paired with either meat or dairy foods, kosher consumers often prefer to purchase pareve breads, which do not contain either milk or meat products. Dairy hot-dog buns, for example, are of little use in a kosher home. Arnold’s widely available pareve hot dog and hamburger buns were a much-appreciated innovation in kosher food when they were first launched, though today they are often taken for granted.
“When I came to the OU over 30 years ago, Arnold’s was one of the first products I worked on,” said Rabbi Moshe Elefant, the OU’s chief operating officer, who noted that some kosher consumers have limited pareve bread choices. In the Midwest, the South, and the West Coast, where fewer products are available generally with kosher certification, “people have been relying on the Arnold’s line of bread,” he pointed out.
Rabbi Zvi Nussbaum warned that consumers should check the packaging of their favorite bread before purchasing it, and not take for granted that the items are kosher.
According to koshertoday.com, many supermarkets specifically carry Arnold’s because of their kosher certification, and the Freihofer’s OU pareve buns are a staple even on the East Coast, where many certified kosher products are also available.
The decision to drop the OU from such products could engender a backlash on par with the Stella D’Oro Swiss Fudge cookie change from OU to OU-dairy in 2003 (which was reversed), or Trader Joe’s decision to similarly move their semi-sweet chocolate chips from an OK (another large kashruth agency) pareve to an OK-dairy designation (not yet reversed) in 2012.
Bimbo Bakeries USA is part of Grupo Bimbo, Mexico’s largest baking company with operations in 21 countries; by the late 1990s, it had acquired Entenmann’s, Thomas’, and Boboli. In 2009, Grupo Bimbo purchased the remaining US 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.
Elefant explained that Arnold’s, as well as Bimbo’s other brands, manufacture their products all over the country, and he thinks the dropping of the OU certification was primarily a business process decision. “I think they wanted to have the flexibility of making products wherever they want,” he said.
“However, our experience has been that when customers notify the manufacturer about changes in the products that adversely affect them, the manufacturers listen to their customers’ opinions,” he added.
“I think these decisions are reversible, especially if you are dealing with a bread product, because they have to be fresh,” he said.
A call to Bimbo Bakeries USA was not immediately returned.
Bimbos Bakeries can be reached at 1-800-984-0989 or through their customer feedback form: https://www.bimbobakeriesusa.com/consumer-questions-feedback.