STAR-K CERTIFICATION PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 13, 2008
CONTACT: Ms. Rebecca Mark
Phone: 410-484-4110, ext. 217
STAR-K Mashgiach Safe in China’s Worst Earthquake in Three Decades
by Margie Pensak
On Monday, at 2:28 p.m. local time (2:28 a.m. Eastern time), Rabbi Ilan Rossanis was in the Yibin airport, in Southwestern China’s Sichuan Province, about to board his flight to Beijing. The veteran mashgiach, who has worked for STAR-K CERTIFICATION for eight years, had just completed an inspection of China Jianzhong Nuclear Fuel Corporation’s Food Division, manufacturer of STAR-K certified eucalyptus oil, citral, and other products commonly found in kosher certified foods. As he was attempting to pack his laptop in his carry-on, the entire airport terminal began shaking uncontrollably. In the next two or three minutes, a plethora of passengers and terminal workers were evacuated. Only after the building stopped trembling, within another few minutes, were they allowed to return. Although, Boruch Hashem, there were no casualties or damage to the airport buildings and infrastructure, the rabbi’s flight was cancelled, leaving him to take a much longer bus ride to Beijing.
Rabbi Rossanis was about 300 km, or about 185 miles, from the epicenter of China’s worst earthquake in three decades, which left more than 12,000 dead, 26,000 injured, and 18,000 buried in rubble. The country’s last devastating natural disaster occurred in 1976. It was then that eastern China suffered an earthquake which left 240,000 people dead and posed a severe challenge to the government. Measuring a magnitude of 7.9, Monday’s powerful earthquake toppled thousands of homes, factories and offices, and trapped students in schools. Not only were its tremors felt as far away as Vietnam, it set off another, smaller quake in the outskirts of Beijing, over 900 miles away.
Landslides, power failures and fallen mobile phone towers, leaving much of the affected area cut off from the outside world, did not prevent Rabbi Rossanis from communicating the tragedy with STAR-K’s headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland. The terrifying experience was all in a day’s work for Rabbi Rossanis, who is one of STAR-K’s three full-time salaried mashgichim in China, and, in a typical week, inspects five to eight STAR-K factories. With the constant flow of STAR-K’s additional part-time mashgichim, there can be as many as six different mashgichim supervising its close to 300 plants throughout the country. For the past five years the STAR-K has maintained a fully staffed office in Shaghai to coordinate operations, and a full-time STAR-K mashgiach has resided in Shanghai to inspect the STAR-K factories. The vast majority of these plants produce food ingredients, including several different types of additives, preservatives, vitamins, nutriceuticals, and dehydrated fruits and vegetables.
STAR-K CHINA also certifies a significant number of canneries that pack fruits and vegetables, as well as a number of snack food productions. They cover the entire spectrum from smaller operations to large industrial complexes, manufacturing an array of products. Chances are that many of the finished food products the American kosher consumer eats in a day, were processed with ingredients or components that were manufactured in a plant in China, which was visited by a STAR-K mashgiach—and, perhaps, close to the epicenter of the earthquake.