The kosher hechsher is a nearly ubiquitous symbol on processed/packaged foods. The symbol, whether it is a K with a circle around it or a circle U or even the word kosher in Hebrew, demarcates one thing, that the food is "fit" for consumption by Jews. Literally, the root of the word kosher can be translated as just that, fit.
The torah was pretty specific about the laws of Kashrut, vague on the why, but very specific on the details. I was not brought up keeping kosher but in my adult life I have made a semblance of an effort. I ran into a problem. I was raised as a very healthy eater and I have grown into a much more health conscious eater.
There are foods and ingredients that I would never dream of eating and frankly I would probably feel a little ill if I did eat them. Things like high fructose corn syrup, artificial coloring, partially hydrogenated anything, monosodium glutamate, aspartame… the list goes on. Are these common found ingredients safe to eat? Yes. But then again pork is safe to eat. Shrimp and catfish, turtle and eel. There are loads of things that are safe to eat but we are told are not "fit" to be eaten. Just the same, my definition of "fit" to eat has evolved over the years. I would argue that soda cans full of ultra sweetened caffeinated chemical filled beverages are not fit to pass between our lips. I would argue that cookies with pink food coloring and loads of artificial flavoring are not fit to eat.
The torah lays out the specifics of what we can and what we cannot eat, but it does not explain why we must observe these laws. Many speculate that the laws were made to keep Jews from eating unhealthy food and to encourage good digestion. So I have an idea. I think that we as a people need to reinterpret and reevaluate our laws.
This is the 21st century and we need a new reading of the torah. Just as our ancestors ate kosher food, health food of the era that was fit for consumption, we should only hechsher foods that are fit for our consumption. I am talking about foods without artificial colors and flavors; without highly processed sugars and flours. Drinks that don't have the ability to strip metal until it's shiny. I want cookies that would go bad in the cupboard if I leave them sitting there for a year.
Call me radical but it is time to re-embrace the hechsher as a symbol of good food, food to encourage good health. We must break free from the yoke of preservatives and flavor enhancement. If we go to all the trouble of making sure that the right foods get into our baskets at the grocery store, I think that the rabbinical unions should ensure that the right foods are getting into our bodies.