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Champagne Limestone Filtering

Q - My father in law pointed out that a bottle of vodka describes how they run the vodka through "Champagne Limestone". While it sounds innocent, if that really indicates alcohol filtering through any kind of wine (Champagne) that would be very problematic from a kashrus standpoint. Can you find out what that really is so I can know whether I can serve it at my son's Bar Mitzvah?

A - Champagne is the name of a region in France which is famous for its wine products. The earth in that area - as in other areas of France - has a higher than usual concentration of chalk, limestone and clay than other parts of the world, and there are those who theorize that that is with why the grapes that grow in that region have a unique taste. Some companies believe that filtering their water with limestone from that area of France improves the flavor of the finished product. While we have no opinion as to whether that claim is justified, we can confirm that that type of filtering does not pose any kashrus concern.

Isinglass in Beer

Q - Is it true that beer is filtered with isinglass which is made from non-kosher fish?

A - Classically, isinglass - a product made from the swim bladder of non-kosher sturgeon fish - was used to filter the protein particles out of beer. The particles are attracted to the isinglass, and then collectively fall to the bottom of the beer where they can be filtered out leaving the beer without any cloudiness. Nodah B'yehudah YD 1:26 rules that this does not pose a kashrus concern, and one of his reasons is that such a miniscule amount of isinglass remains in the beer that it is batel (nullified). [In this case there is no concern of bitul issur l'chatchilah - intentionally diluting non-kosher into kosher - because the isinglass is put in with the specific intention of removing it.] Some hashgachos rely on this line of reasoning and others hold that items which are certified as kosher should meet a higher standard and not contain any non-kosher components.

Nowadays, most beer companies do not use isinglass and instead use other methods to filter the beer.

European Lists of Approved Whisky

Q. I noticed on your liquor list that you specifically do not recommend a specific whisky that I saw listed as acceptable in the liquor list and "kashrus guide" of a European hashgacha. Why is that?


A. The item you saw is a liqueur which requires hashgacha. The European hashgacha that lists that item as approved (but not as certified) follows a lower standard than we do as to which items qualify as "approved". Therefore, although they list it as approved we are not able to recommend the product.

Craisins

Q. What bracha do I recite on craisins?

A. Rav Gedalia Dov Schwartz, zt"l ruled that the bracha rishonah is borei pri ha'adamah.

Freekeh

Q. We were introduced to a new grain product, freekeh, which is the grains from green wheat, similar to wheat-berries. Does it need hashgacha because it is a whole grain (similar to rice), and what bracha do you say on it?

A. Freekeh refers to an ancient method of preparing unripe grains for eating and may be related to the food called "karmel" in Vayikra 23:14. In recent years, companies have begun mass-producing a wheat-freekeh which they have been selling in the USA and other countries, where it was previously unknown.

If the freekeh is pure without any flavors or sensitive additives, then it may be purchased and consumed, even if it is not certified as kosher. If the freekeh is ground into flour (and then used in cooking), cooked as broken-pieces, or cooked to the point that the pieces break or stick together, the bracha rishonah is mezonos. If, however, it is cooked and served as whole kernels, the proper bracha is ha'adamah.

Grape Juice

Q. What is the minimum percentage of grape juice mixture to require the bracha of hagafen?


A. If the grape juice is pure (without water or other ingredients added by the manufacturer), then as long as there is at least 1 part grape juice for (just under) every 6 parts of water (about 14%) the bracha is hagafen. If there was more water than that, then the bracha is shehakol. If the manufacturer adds other ingredients, the percentage will depend on the exact formulation of this juice, and you would have to be in touch with the manufacturer, or their certifying body, to obtain details on this.

Hydroponically-Grown Lettuce

Q. What bracha should I recite on hydroponically-grown produce? May I use hydroponically grown romaine lettuce at the Seder?

A. The considerable discussion in the Poskim regarding the bracha on hydroponically grown produce is beyond the scope of this column, but here are some highlights:

Some (Chayei Adam 51:17 & Nishmas Adam 152:1, Yechaveh Da'as 6:12, and Machzeh Eliyahu 25-29) hold that the bracha is shehakol because the wording of the bracha "Baruch…who creates the fruit of the earth" (borei pri ha'adamah) is inappropriate for items that grow unattached to the firmament or that grow in a non-earthlike media (e.g., water, coconut coir). Rav Gedalia Dov Schwartz, zt"l ruled that one should follow this opinion.

Others argue that the bracha of borei pri ha'adamah was instituted for all vegetables, regardless of exactly how they grew. This is the opinion of Chazon Ish, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Vezos HaBracha, Birur Halacha #24), Shevet HaLevi (1:205), Teshuvos V'Hanhagos 2:149, and Rav Shmuel Kaminetzky (Koveitz Halachos, Pesach 24:6).

The use of hydroponically-grown romaine lettuce at the Seder is much more straightforward, as Chazon Ish (Kilayim 13:16) conclusively proves from Gemara Pesachim 35b that wheat that grew unattached to the ground (e.g., in a flowerpot) may be used for matzah at the Seder. Since many of the requirements for marror, including that it must be produce of the "land", are derived from the halachos of matzah (see Gemara Pesachim 39a) it follows that hydroponically grown marror may surely be used at the Seder.

For more information on this topic, see the Hydroponics article that first appeared in the cRc Pesach Guide 2024.

Melba Toast

Q. What bracha does one recite on Melba toast? Also, if I only eat pas Yisroel, do I have to make sure the Melba toast I buy is pas Yisroel?

A. There is a difference of opinion between contemporary Poskim whether the proper bracha for Melba toast is hamotzi (since it is baked as bread before it is toasted) or mezonos (since the bread is baked with the specific intention of converting it to Melba toast). Rav Gedalia Dov Schwartz, zt"l's opinion is that the first approach is correct, and the bracha is hamotzi. Even those who take the position that the bracha is mezonos agree that hamotzi should be recited if one eats sufficient quantities of Melba toast and/or uses them for a meal.

The term "pas" as relates to pas Yisroel (and many other halachos) includes items upon which one sometimes or always recites hamotzi, and, therefore, Melba toast qualifies as pas according to all opinions. Accordingly, one who is particular to only eat pas Yisroel (year-round or during Aseres Yimei Teshuvah), should not eat Melba toast which is not pas Yisroel.

Kiwi Berries

Q. What is the bracha on kiwi berries?

A. The bracha rishonah is borei pri ha'eitz.

Quinoa

Q. What is the bracha on quinoa?

A. The bracha rishonah on cooked quinoa is borei pri ha'adamah.

Kingklip

Q. I am a member of a shul with a significant South African presence, and there has been a lot of controversy there whether the kingklip fish is kosher. Can you help us resolve this?


A. Decades ago this issue was raised at the OU Kashrus Department, and the OU Poskim decided that since this issue is only relevant to the South African (and some South American) Jewish communities, the local Rabbis should be the ones to make the decision as to the fish's kashrus. They, therefore, refrained from offering their personal opinions on the matter, and we encourage you to raise the question with Rabbis from South Africa, who will surely be able to direct you.

Kinuach Between Meat and Fish

Q. If I eat sushi that has fish in it, do I have to do anything special before eating meat?


A. One may not eat meat and fish together (Shulchan Aruch YD 116:2) and Rema (116:3) recommends that one should separate between eating those items by eating and drinking some neutral food. This is known as kinuach and hadachah. You can satisfy this requirement by eating some rice (or other food) as long as it is free of fish and meat.

Orange Juice Containing Fish

Q. I bought orange juice and saw that next to the certification logo there is an "F". Does that mean "fleishig" or "fish" or something else? Please advise.


A. The "F" refers to "fish". As a rule, a fish designation means that you cannot eat that food with meat, but in this case, we happen to know that it is not true. That hashgacha labels the orange juice as "fish" because it contains a tiny bit of fish oil in it, and they take the position that fish ingredients cannot be batel. However, Rav Gedalia Dov Schwartz, zt"l has said that fish can be batel b'shishim (and other hashgachos take a similar stance), and, therefore, we would say that it can be used with meat despite the fish ingredient.

Pearl Essence

Q. I saw someplace that "most lipstick contains fish scales" what does this mean?


A. That is referring to pearl essence (or pearlescence), a substance extracted from (kosher) herring scales. It provides the shine to herring and serves the same function in certain cosmetics. It doesn't pose a kashrus concern.

Raw Fish in a Supermarket

Q. When it comes to fish, such as salmon, does that need to be purchased at a kosher supermarket or can salmon also be purchased at a general supermarket?


A. There are two issues when purchasing raw, fresh fish.

Firstly, one must be sure the fish is, in fact, a kosher species. As a rule, one may not rely on the name of the fish to make that determination as (a) in some cases multiple fish are referred to by the same name and (b) there is considerable fraud in the fish industry with one fish being passed off as another. Therefore, the only reliable method of determining that a fish is from a kosher species is by inspecting its scales to be sure that they are the type that can be removed from the fish without ripping any flesh. If the fish has no scales or you are unsure how to determine if the scales are "kosher", there is no way to know that the fish is from a kosher species. One notable exception is salmon, where the flesh-color is unique and is considered a clear identifying mark of the kosher, salmon fish.


Secondly, the knives used to scale, eviscerate, fillet and/or cut the fish may have been previously used for non-kosher fish. If that were true, it is possible that some residue of the non-kosher fish is still on the knife and will transfer to the kosher fish. To avoid this issue, it would be best to purchase cut fish from a kosher fish store, or at least to ask the store employees to clean the knife and work on a clean piece of butcher-paper. If neither of those are possible, there is basis to permit the purchase of packaged, pre-cut fish with the assumption that the store employees used the knife to cut many slices from the same kosher fish, and the non-kosher residue is likely not on the piece you chose. The worst-case scenario would be if the store would use a dirty knife to cut just one piece of kosher fish for you; in that case, you would have to scrub clean any surfaces that had been cut.

Of course, the above only applies to raw fish; fish which is cooked, smoked, or otherwise processed requires proper kosher certification.

Salmon with Color Added

Q. Do I have to be concerned about salmon that is labeled as having "color added"? Are the colors possibly non-kosher?


A. From a kashrus perspective this does not pose a concern.

Salmon are (relatively) unique in that they store certain carotenoids in their flesh which is what provides that flesh with its distinct pinkish color. Wild salmon ingest these carotenoids as part of their regular diet, but farmed salmon which grow in a controlled environment where those carotenoids are not naturally available must have astaxanthin or canthaxanthin added to their feed, so that they will develop the proper color. Although these items are added to the feed and not to the fish's flesh, the American law requires that salmon fed these items be labeled as having "color added". Such feed does not pose a kashrus issue because the materials are inherently kosher, and because they are digested by the fish.

Steak and Fish

Q. While discussing possible menu items for my daughter's kosher wedding, I was told we could not have a combination of steak and fish, as it was not allowed by the cRc. Can you clarify why this is not possible? I have never heard of this and am curious as to the reason behind this decision.


A. The Rabbis of the Talmud (Pesachim 76a) advise against consuming meat and fish together, as doing so is not healthful. There are some authorizes, such as Magen Avraham 173:1, who rule that since nowadays we do not observe any negative effects of this practice, one may assume that "nature" has changed (nishtaneh hatevah), and, therefore, the Talmudic advice may be ignored. However, the common practice is to follow the ruling of Shulchan Aruch YD 116:2 that even nowadays one must follow this directive, and it is for that reason that the cRc will not allow meat and fish to be served simultaneously.

Worcestershire Sauce

Q. I recently used a Worcestershire sauce on a steak. Afterward, I was looking at the bottle's ingredients and saw that all the way at the end it says, "Contains Anchovies". I know that anchovies are a type of fish and I also know that the Gemara says that it is dangerous to eat meat (steak) and fish (anchovies) together. I wanted to know if you can shed some light on this before I write an angry email to the people who certified this sauce as pareve.


A. It is true that one may not eat meat and fish together (Shulchan Aruch YD 116:2) but in this case it is permitted because the hashgachah is vouching for the fact that there is so little fish in the sauce that it is halachically insignificant (batel b'shishim). [Pischei Teshuvah 115:3 and Darchei Teshuvah 115:16 & 21 cite Poskim who discuss the propriety of l'chatchilah relying on bitul b'shishim as relates to this specific halacha, and in addition some consider Magen Avraham 173:1 as a contributing factor.]

You should however be aware that some Worcestershire sauces contain a more significant amount of anchovies. In those cases, the hashgacha will insist that the sauces be labeled with the word "fish" alongside their logo, so that kosher consumers will know to not use the sauce together with meat.

Almond Pasteurization

Q. Have you ever heard of any issues with companies pasteurizing "raw" almonds on the shared equipment with potential non-kosher?


A. The two common methods of pasteurizing raw almonds without cooking/roasting them are fumigating with propylene oxide and steaming. There is some heat used in these processes, but we've confirmed with people involved in almond production and certification that the nature of the almond industry is such that the processes are done on equipment which is dedicated to almonds (or other innocuous fruits and vegetables), and, therefore, does not pose a kashrus concern.

Baby Food (Jarred)

Q. Some of the canned baby food I see in the store has a hechsher, and other varieties from the same company do not. The one I was looking at had just peas and water which seemed to pose no kashrus issue. May I buy it?


A. We would not recommend it.

After the baby food is put into the jar, the entire jar is put into a machine called a "retort", where the jar and contents are cooked at high temperatures to prevent the food from spoiling. Those same retorts are usually also used to cook non-kosher varieties of baby food, such as those with beef or chicken. The hashgacha on the label assures you that the specific jar was produced on kosher machinery - either because the company has special machines for kosher, or because they kasher the retort before they produce that variety of baby food, but if there is no hechsher, then the jar may have been cooked when the machinery was non-kosher. Accordingly, we recommend that you should only purchase jars of baby food that have hashgacha, even if the ingredients seem innocuous.

Bulgur Wheat

Q. Does raw bulgur wheat require kosher certification?


A. Yes.

Although the bulgur wheat sold in stores appears to be (cracked) raw wheat kernels, in fact, the kernels are usually fully cooked in the factory and are perfectly edible if one soaks them in warm water to rehydrate them. Accordingly, bulgur wheat requires kosher certification to guarantee that the requirements for bishul Yisroel were fulfilled. [Bishul Yisroel is a Rabbinic Law which requires that a Jew participate in the cooking of certain foods.]

Canned Fruit vs. Canned Vegetables

Q. Someone at your office told me that pure canned fruit (without questionable additives such as fruit juice, colorings, flavors, and not produced in Israel) is acceptable without hashgacha, but canned vegetables should only be purchased with proper certification. What's the difference between them?


A. To answer this question, we'll have to first understand some details of how canned food is processed.

To ensure that canned food is safe to eat, the can is heated in a "retort" with the food inside the can so that any dangerous microorganisms or "toxins" are destroyed. An even more intense level of heating is required to deal with the more significant danger of "spores", which are dormant microorganisms that are encased in a special shell. The spores, per se, do not pose a danger, but they must be destroyed so that they do not begin to grow (and produce toxins) when conditions become more favorable. Spores will not grow in foods which are highly acidic (called "high-acid" and defined as being a pH of 4.6 or lower); therefore, the spores in those foods do not have to be destroyed. Accordingly, they can be processed with a lower level of heating than is required for low-acid foods.

Meat, cheese, pasta, and most vegetables (including corn, peas, carrot, beans, and tomatoes) are low-acid foods which require the more sophisticated retorts, and a company that has gone through the expense of purchasing that retort and the effort of having it licensed by the FDA, is likely to use it for a wide assortment of products. That is to say that even if the company's primary business is to process simple vegetables, they might rent out the equipment for the processing of tomato sauce or pasta and beef during times that they don't need the retorts. As a result, canned vegetables require a hashgacha to assure that the equipment is kashered before kosher is produced.

On the other hand, most fruits (including pineapple) are high-acid foods which can be processed on a simpler retort, and it is common that fruit companies will have their own retort which is dedicated to that one product. Not only is the retort typically dedicated for that product but, in truth, it usually not even suited for the higher-temperature processing required of most non-kosher items (e.g. meat, cheese). [The high-acid retort might be used for foods that contain non-kosher grape juice, colors, or flavors, but that use would not render the equipment non-kosher; the reason for that is beyond the scope of this article.]

Canned Soup

Q. My non-Jewish coworkers tell me about a vegetarian canned soup that they enjoy, and I'd love to give it a try, but it has no hechsher. Most of the ingredients seem to be just plain vegetables or spices, but there are a few that I don't recognize. Can I use the soup?


A. Unfortunately, we are not able to recommend canned soup without a reliable hashgacha, and here are some of the reasons why:

Firstly, as you note, the ingredients must all be kosher. It is possible that if we reviewed the ingredient list with you, we would find that, in fact, all the ingredients are inherently kosher, but the chances are that there would be at least a few that we would not be able to approve without knowing more details from the manufacturer.

Even if all the ingredients are kosher there are certain (cooked) foods which are only kosher if a Jew participated in cooking the food. The details of that set of laws, known as bishul Yisroel, are somewhat involved, and it is not always possible to determine whether a given product requires bishul Yisroel unless one is familiar with the details of the production. For example, cooked potatoes or pasta require bishul Yisroel if they are cooked alone, but not if they are cooked together with the rest of the soup and are just a minor component of the soup.

Lastly, canned foods are usually cooked in a sophisticated piece of equipment called a "retort", and most companies use their retorts for more than one food. Thus, the retort in which non-kosher beef soup was cooked one morning, might be used to cook the vegetarian soup in the afternoon, and the cleanup between products does not qualify as kashering. Thus, the general rule is that most canned items are only acceptable if they bear acceptable kosher certification which assures (among other things) that the status of the food is not compromised by the equipment.

Chalav Yisroel Nowadays

Q. My family has always used chalav stam (i.e., non-chalav Yisroel) products based on the ruling of Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l, but recently we heard that some claim that his ruling no longer applies. Is that true?


A. Rav Feinstein wrote numerous teshuvos on the topic of chalav Yisroel, and in each he notes that it is preferable for people to drink chalav Yisroel, but it is, nonetheless, perfectly permitted to use (what is colloquially known as) chalav stam due to government inspection of dairy farms to assure that only cow's milk is used. Those who have always used chalav stam may continue to do so and should not be concerned about recent rumors that these inspections no longer exist. It is true that there is no formal question on the inspector's forms that says, "Does the milk come from cows?", however:


• The U.S. law clearly requires that milk and milk-products sold to the public be from a cow.

• Inspectors have told kashrus personnel that if an inspector ever observed someone using milk from another animal or even having another type of animal on a dairy farm, that person would definitely be cited for a violation.

• It is basically impossible (in the USA) to purchase equipment with which to milk non-kosher animals; therefore, the only violations that ever occur in this realm are when a farmer will attempt to substitute kosher goat or sheep milk for cow's milk. Even this type of violation is quite uncommon.

• The requirement that milk must come from a cow is so obvious and is so rarely violated that the inspector's forms don't even bother asking the inspectors to check that during an inspection. It is akin to the fact that when the cRc instructs a Mashgiach as to his tasks we do not ask him to check if the restaurant is using ham because it is so obvious that a kosher facility wouldn't use it, and of course the Mashgiach will report someone doing so.

Coffee (and Tea) Pods

Q. I'd like to buy K-cups to go into the Keurig coffee maker. Do they need a hechsher? There are hazelnut kinds and different teas as well.


A. [The pods (also known as capsules and other names) are single-serve package of coffee grinds, tea leaves, or other powdered drinks. They are put into a specially designed coffee maker which pour water through the pod (which contains its own filter), thereby producing a single cup of freshly brewed coffee or tea.]

The "rules" for these pods is the same as if the coffee or tea was not in the pod - if the powder is pure (regular or decaf), unflavored coffee or tea, the pod may be used, even if it does not bear kosher certification, but any flavored item (as many of the teas and some of the coffees are) requires hashgacha.

Even if the pod is kosher, one should not use it in a coffee maker that is also used for non-kosher products - such as in an office environment - without first consulting with your Rabbi.

Cut Fruit

Q. Can I buy cut up fruit from a supermarket without a hechsher?


A. Yes, assuming it is pure fruit, and the fruits are the types that do not require special checking or washing to remove insects.

Eggs with Omega-3

Q. Is Omega-3 a kashrus concern in eggs?


A. It is not. Whole, raw eggs sold as containing higher levels of Omega-3 are standard eggs which are laid by chickens that are fed a special diet that causes their eggs to have more Omega-3 than other eggs do. From a kashrus perspective it is irrelevant what the chickens are fed, and the eggs are kosher.

Fruit with Hashgacha

Q. My mother-in-law picked up a peach in the fruit store and saw that right next to the PLU code (on the sticker found on the fruit) there was a kosher symbol. What has this earth come to? Why would anyone certify a fresh peach as kosher?


A. Much of the fruit and vegetables which we eat are coated with a wax coating to help retain moisture and make them look more appealing. Some of the ingredients in those coatings are kosher-sensitive, and therefore, there are people (particularly in Israel) who are careful only to eat fruit with a certified kosher coating. The logo on some fruit is a way of assuring those people that the coating only contains kosher ingredients. However, the cRc and most other hashgachos are of the opinion that the wax coatings are inedible (and happen to just be put on in a very thin layer such that the average consumer doesn't notice them) and may, therefore, be used even if some of the ingredients happen to be non-kosher.

Maple Syrup & Honey

Q. A friend of mine works for a reputable hashgacha, and he told me that his certification lets companies use pure maple syrup and honey even if they aren't kosher-certified. Is that true?


A. Although your friend's report is accurate, that leniency only applies to commercial use of maple syrup and honey, where the processing of the pure material doesn't raise any kashrus concerns. However, when those items are packaged for retail use, it is somewhat common for them to be heated to lower their viscosity and make it easier to pump them into the containers, and this same equipment might also be used to heat non-kosher items. Therefore, food service and retail-sized containers of maple syrup and honey require kosher certification even if there are no other ingredients used.

Milk & Juice

Q. [We drink milk which is not chalav Yisroel.] Why do you say that we can buy milk without certification (if certified is not available) assuming it is just plain milk with no additives (other than the vitamins)? Why is that different than juice, which requires hashgacha because it might have been pasteurized on equipment used for non-kosher?


A. There are other items processed on milk pasteurizers which are non-kosher, and for exactly that reason there are some who recommend that milk only be bought with hashgacha. Nonetheless, where needed, we permit milk without hashgacha because so much milk is pasteurized at one time that any non-kosher taste absorbed into the pasteurizer are surely batel b'shishim (nullified) in the finished milk. This is a reasonable position regarding milk, since milk is bottled cold which means that the (hot) pasteurization of lots of milk is done at once, and then the bottling is done later

.

In contrast, most fruit juices are bottled hot such that (a) there is more equipment involved, and there are, therefore, more b'lios which must be batel and (b) the complications of bottling make it likely that the process will have to stop more frequently, and this negatively affects the bitul calculations. Therefore, we recommend to consumers that they only purchase fruit juice which bears a reputable kosher certification but permit plain milk even if it is not certified.

Quail Eggs

Q. Do you know which quail eggs are kosher?


A. One of the world's experts on the kosher status of different birds is Rabbi Chaim Loike, who works for the OU. In his articles and books he notes that many species of quail are kosher, but there are others which are not. Therefore, he recommends that, "At this point quail eggs should not be consumed unless it is possible to verify that the eggs are indeed those of a kosher quail specie."

Rose Water

Q. I believe that you had recently told me that rose water requires hashgacha. Is that correct? If yes, why does it need hashgacha?


A. Rose water is believed to be made by steeping the roses in water so that an extract leeches out, and then the water is distilled to purify/strengthen the product. Unfortunately, the primary production areas are in Lebanon and other countries where Mashgichim are not welcome, such that we are not aware of any Mashgichim who can confirm that this is the process and clarify whether there are any kashrus concerns. [It is worth noting that most rose water sold in the USA is not authentic rose water, but rather water which is flavored to taste like true rose water.] Accordingly, we are unable to recommend rose water (or orange blossom water) without hashgacha.

Slurpees

Q. The Slurpee machine at my local 7/11 is not kosher-certified, but someone showed me the extensive list of kosher Slurpee flavors from the cRc website. Can I consume those flavors even if the store isn't kosher? How do I know that there isn't carryover from a non-kosher flavor to the kosher flavor?


A. Yes, you may eat (or should I say drink?) any kosher flavor of Slurpee even if the specific 7/11 store is not kosher-certified. The reason is as follows:

Each bag-in-box that holds a single Slurpee syrup has its own disposable hose, but there are some hoses that do not get changed or thoroughly cleaned between products. Thus, it is possible that some of Flavor A will be in the pipes even though the bag-in-box and sign say that Flavor B is being served. The reason this isn't a serious kashrus concern is that (a) the amount of Slurpee left in the machine is minimal enough that it would invariably all end up in the first Slurpee purchased after the hoses were changed, and (b) almost every single Slurpee flavor is kosher. Accordingly, the chances that I will get non-kosher Slurpee in my kosher Slurpee are too small to be significant. For more details on the kosher issues with Slurpees, see the article by Rabbi Fishbane on our website.

Tartaric Acid / Cream of Tartar

Q. I read that tartaric acid is made from wine or grape juice. Does that mean that kosher tartaric acid is made from kosher wine?


A. Shulchan Aruch YD 123:16 rules that the deposits which collect on the inside walls of barrels used for non-kosher wine are permitted if those deposits dried on the barrel-wall for 12 months. The reason for that leniency is that after the deposits dry for that long they are treated like "dirt" (non-food) and are permitted even though the source of those deposits is non-kosher wine. [This halacha does not apply to all issurim.] It is these deposits which are used to produce tartaric acid and cream of tartar (see Darchei Teshuvah 123:53), and they are, therefore, kosher even when produced from non-kosher wine.

Nowadays, these materials are not made from 12-month-old deposits, but rather from grape-based items which have been mechanically dried over the course of a few hours. Some rule that the leniency only applies to the exact case discussed in Shulchan Aruch, and, therefore, do not consider mechanically dried tartaric acid to be kosher, unless it is made from kosher wine. However, the cRc and most American hashgachos follow the lenient approach which argues that the product is kosher as long as the mechanical drying mimics the (moisture-reducing qualities of the) 12-month air-drying.

Winter Squash

Q. Is it okay to buy frozen vegetables (i.e. winter squash) if the ingredients say the vegetables were precooked (but they contain no other ingredients)?


A. Winter squash, such as acorn and butternut squash, is normally cooked prior to eating. In fact, most cannot be eaten raw and must be cooked, unlike summer squash such as zucchini, which can be eaten raw.

Some frozen selections of winter squash must be cooked prior to serving, while others come fully cooked and do not require any additional cooking. Even if there are no ingredient problems with the product, if the frozen winter squash is already fully cooked when purchased, that might raise concerns of bishul akum, and the cRc would not recommend its use. [Bishul akum is the prohibition against eating certain foods cooked without Jewish participation.]

Apricot with Spots

Q. I've noticed that the dried apricots which I buy often have white or brown spots on them. Are these bugs? They don't look at all like bugs but what else could they be?


A. Rabbi Yaakov M. Eisenbach, our Rabbinic Coordinator for Food Service, checked the spots and confirmed that they are not any form of insect. After researching the issue further, he believes that what you are seeing is a fungal growth which is common in dried apricots.

Brussels Sprouts

Q. A blogger has been blasting kosher agencies who forbid the consumption of Brussels sprouts due to the presence of bugs. He makes a theological argument that we have no right to ban a vegetable and that doing so casts aspersions on the previous generations who ate it. I am sincerely interested in your position and defense on this question which bridges theology and kashrus, so any details or information you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

A. It is true that our forefathers were as careful about not eating bugs as we are, and, therefore, if we know that they ate a given vegetable (e.g. romaine lettuce, parsley) we should assume that there is a way to remove all the bugs before eating them. Accordingly, it is our job to find the right method of cleaning and checking, rather than ban the use of that vegetable. On the other hand, all the major kosher agencies that we are aware of do not allow the use of Brussels sprouts and that should give some indication that there's probably some merit to that position.

The reason for the "ban" on Brussels sprouts is that to wash and check them, all the individual leaves must be peeled off. This is perfectly effective at removing the bugs and would be acceptable, but most people want to eat/serve the Brussels sprouts whole. Thus far, no one has been able to figure out any way to check the Brussels sprouts whole, and, therefore, we do not recommend them. However, the Rabbis at the cRc regularly investigate and consider new methods and information, and we would be happy to consider any ideas you might come up with.

Citrus Scale

Q. Please let me know whether scale insects on citrus fruit, which some in Israel say is an issue, is a concern here also in the U.S. It is relevant for someone who wants to publish a recipe that calls for lemon rind, and for the consumers who will use it.

A. Citrus scale is the name for a class of insects which attack the fruit (and leaves) of oranges, grapefruits, and other citrus fruits. Each tiny scale attaches itself to a fruit, lowers a rostrum (a hair-like feeding tube) into the fruit, and sucks juice out of the fruit. After the scale is attached to the fruit, it excretes a wax-like cover/shield over its exposed side and remains immobile and attached to that same spot for its entire life. The cover is typically black and round and is the basis for the name citrus "scale". An experienced person can peel the cover (and probably the insect as well) off the fruit; this is different than other discolorations of the fruit which cannot be removed.

There are two halachic issues relating to citrus scale:

• Shulchan Aruch YD 84:6 rules that insects that lived their whole life in a fruit without ever moving are permitted, and citrus scale would appear to be a perfect example of this. The arguments against this are (a) the citrus scale may be visible when they first crawl onto the fruit in their first instar/stage (the details of this question are beyond the scope of this column), and (b) Rema argues that such insects are forbidden.

• Citrus scale (or at least their wax cover) are large enough to be visible to the naked eye, but they are not recognizable as insects to the average person looking at them without magnification. Whether insects of that size are, in fact, forbidden is a dispute between contemporary Poskim (see Shmiras Shabbos K'hilchaso Chapter 3 footnote 105) with most Israeli Poskim/adopting the strict approach, and many American Poskim ruling leniently. [This question is also somewhat intertwined with whether the citrus scales are visible in their first instar, noted above.]

The good news is that growers in the United States use all types of pesticides and natural predators to keep citrus scale off oranges and other fruit intended for eating, and, therefore, this discussion is not so relevant for most of us. It seems that in Eretz Yisrael citrus scale is more common, and the people there are encouraged to either remove the scale or make sure to peel the fruit carefully to make sure none of the insects come off the peel and fall into the food. Even in the United States citrus scale is sometimes found on fruit intended for juicing, where the appearance of the fruit is not as significance.

Grains & Beans

Q. I read that there is a small probability that some of the insect eggs that remain on the grain from the field are not completely neutralized in processing. Would this be of practical concerns regarding oats, barley, and beans in America?

A. Grains and beans processed in the United States and most other countries are centrifuged to remove bugs, bug-eggs, and other debris before the food is sold in stores. The process - known colloquially as "Entoleting", because the Entoleter Company is the leading supplier of the equipment used for this purpose - is so effective that as long as grains are stored in cool and dry conditions they will remain bug-free for many months. For this reason, there is no need to check grains or beans for insect infestation in the United States. If you are using grains in another country, or if you have reason to believe the grains may not have been stored properly, then you might want to contact a local Rabbi to determine whether/how to check them for infestation.

Herbs

Q. Why is it that fresh herbs must be checked for infestation, but dried herbs are permitted without any checking? Is it because the companies clean the herbs really well before they dry and sell them?

A. The factories do clean and sterilize the herbs somewhat before they package them, but that cleaning is usually not thorough enough to meet our standards for the removal of bugs. The herbs are acceptable for kosher use for an entirely different reason. Shulchan Aruch YD 84:8 rules that 12 months after a bug is "born" it becomes permitted, because by that point it has surely died and dried out to the point that it is no longer a forbidden food-item. It is generally accepted to follow the lenient opinions cited in Darchei Teshuvah 84:102 that the same leniency applies to bugs which were mechanically dried (in less than 12 months). Therefore, even if the herbs were infested, the drying-process effectively renders the bugs as "kosher" and the herbs can be eaten as-is.

Sifting Flour

Q. For those who have the minhag to sift flour, what electric sifters would be recommended?

A. Nowadays, most flour is processed in a manner that removes all insects and even destroys just about all insect eggs, such that flour stored in cool, dry conditions will remain bug-free for 60 days or more. Accordingly, the halacha does not require sifting flour before use (unless a person has reason to think it may have been stored in a damp and/or warm environment or for an extended amount of time).

Nonetheless, there are some who do sift all their flour to make sure that there is not even the slightest chance that they will consume a bug. For those who chose to follow this practice, it is recommended that they use an electric sifter whose screens are 60-70 mesh. [A lower mesh (i.e., <60) will not remove enough bugs, and a higher mesh will make sifting too difficult.] Sifters that meet this standard are available online for approximately $60-70.

Barbecue in the Park

Q. There's a park near my house that has a few built-in barbecues available for the public to use. Of course, the barbecues are used for non-kosher all the time and I'm wondering if there is any way I can possibly use them for a party for my daughter's class?


A. There is a way to kasher a barbecue, but it is probably too difficult and time-consuming for you to do in this situation. Here are the directions in case you choose to go through with it.

Before you begin kashering, the barbecue pit and grates would have to cleaned of any residue. Next, you'd have to put enough coals to cover [a] the entire floor/pit, [b] the underside of the grate, [c] the top of the grate, and [d] any contact points between the grate and pit. Lastly, you would light the coals and let them burn for about an hour, after which you could use the barbecue for kosher food.

Corkscrew

Q. Can I use a corkscrew which had previously been used to open a bottle of non-kosher wine?


A. Yes, just rinse the corkscrew off and it can then be used for kosher wine.

George Foreman Grill

Q. I received a refurbished George Foreman grill from someone who does not keep kosher. Is there a need to kasher it? Is there a way to kasher it?

A. It most definitely requires kashering, and the method required is called "libun gamur" which is quite difficult and which is not recommended for most situations. Libun gamur is essentially impossible for a grill in which the cooking-plate are permanently attached to the body of the grill. If the cooking-plates are detachable, and you want to attempt kashering, this is what you should do:

Remove the plates from the body of the grill, sandwich the plates between layers of charcoal, light the charcoal, and allow it to burn for one hour. Then, reattach the plates to the body of the grill, and turn the grill onto the highest setting for 20 minutes. Lastly, if there is a drip pan, boil up a pot of water and submerge the drip pan into the boiling water. [Of course, all of the above, assumes that all parts of the grill are perfectly clean and haven't been used for 24 hours.]

Kashering a Home

Q. I've just begun keeping kosher and need some help figuring out how to switch over my kitchen to all-kosher use. Can you help?


A. Your kitchen must go through a process called "kashering". If you want to try this on your own, you might want to read the articles on our website and/or consult with your local Rabbi.

Fireclay Tile

Q. Have you heard of Fireclay tile for a kitchen? Do you know if it can be kashered?

A. Fireclay tile is a form of ceramic (cheress) which cannot be kashered. Accordingly, if the kitchen is used year-round, the Fireclay tiles must be covered for Pesach.

Frying Pan

Q. Please let me know what your recommendation is to kasher a dairy Teflon-lined frying pan that was used for meat by a well-intended individual in his home.


A. In order to determine if and how one can kasher a frying pan, we must first consider your individual method of cooking in that pan. If you fry with a generous amount of oil or other grease, then the frying pan can be kashered with libun kal which includes the following steps - clean the pan well, do not use it for 24 hours, and then put it upside down on an open flame until both the inside and outside are hot enough to singe paper.

On the other hand, if you fry with an insignificant amount of oil (such as with cooking spray), then the general rule is that the frying pan cannot be kashered, since the level of kashering required (libun gamur) is basically impossible for most people. The strictness of the latter case surely applies if someone cooked non-kosher food in a frying pan, but in many cases it can be waived if the person merely cooked kosher meat in a dairy pan (or vice versa), and any such questions should be directed to a Rabbi.

Libun Gamur

Q. Is it true that items which require the kashering method called "libun gamur" can be kashered by heating them with a welder's torch for a few minutes?


A. In theory, libun gamur can be accomplished by using a torch to heat all surfaces until they are red-hot. However, in practice, libun gamur is quite difficult, because if someone holds the torch in one spot at a time, the different parts of the metal will be at different temperatures, and this will cause the metal to warp. Accordingly, the proper method of using a torch is to slowly heat up the entire utensil simultaneously by moving the torch around and around, and to continue this until each area is red hot. The whole exercise requires considerable expertise and patience, and is, therefore, only recommended for people with experience.

New Oven Racks

Q. We just purchased a new oven. The instructions said that the racks were coated with a vegetable oil. Does this pose any kashrus problem?

A. In recent years it has become common for oven racks to be coated before they are shipped to consumers. Since we cannot confirm the kosher status of the oils used in that process, we recommend that you kasher the racks before you use them for the first time. In this case, the kashering is quite simple - just turn the oven on to 550° F, and leave it at that temperature for one hour.

Plastic

Q. I am doing research on plastic and understand that you permit Formica and other plastic countertops to be kashered by hag'alah. I would appreciate any sources or teshuvos used in making this psak.


A. Some Poskim and hashgachos accept the ruling of Iggeros Moshe (OC 2:92 & 3:58) that synthetic materials cannot be kashered because we have no tradition as to whether the standard kashering process is acceptable. However, the cRc and most American and Israeli hashgachos follow the opinion of Rav Henkin (Am HaTorah, Cycle 1, Volume 10, page 5), Tzitz Eliezer (4:6:3) and Minchas Yitzchok (3:67) who permit the kashering of plastic, assuming it is strong enough to withstand the rigors of the kashering process. They hold that all materials may be kashered unless the Torah specifically states that they cannot be (as it does with cheress/ceramics).

Porcelain Enamel

Q. My Rabbi thought you might have some information about the enamel coatings on ovens if they are cheress or glass or mostly metal?

A. They are glass-coated steel. Ground/powdered glass (or sometimes, liquefied glass) is sprayed onto the steel, and then it is put into a kiln at about 1500° F. The heat fuses the steel and glass together (in two layers), and gives the two of them properties that they didn't have beforehand. In particular, the glass cannot crack or be scratched, and it can withstand high temperatures and many caustics/soaps.

Pot

Q. How does one kasher a large pot?


A. To kasher a pot, you should do the following:

• Clean it thoroughly on both the inside and outside

• Let it sit unused for 24 hours

• Fill a larger pot with water and bring that water to a boil (this pot must be clean and not been used for 24 hours)

• Submerge all parts of the smaller pot (including the cover) into the larger one. It is okay to submerge different parts of the pot separately, as long as all parts eventually get submerged.

If you do not have a larger pot, fill the pot which will be kashered with water and bring that to a boil. At the same time, fill a small pot (which is clean and hasn't been used for 24 hours) with water and bring it to a boil. When both pots have come to a boil, carefully lower the smaller pot into the larger pot, which will cause the water to overflow from the larger pot. Be very careful to not get scalded by the boiling water.

After this, it is customary to rinse the kashered pot in cold water, and you may then use it as pareve, dairy or meat.

Oven Mitts

Q. Do you need separate oven gloves for meat and milk (gloves that you use to take out the dishes from the oven)?


A. Yes.

Porcelain Sink

Q. My daughter is renting an apartment that has a porcelain sink in the kitchen. How can she use the kitchen sink?


A. Unfortunately, there is no way to kasher a porcelain sink. Therefore, if the sink was previously used for non-kosher, no kosher dishes or other items can be placed directly into the sink. Instead, your daughter should purchase a plastic bowl or basin, and place it into the sink. All dishes etc. should be placed into that basin, and all dishwashing should be done there as well. It is okay to pour out the wash-water into the sink, but no kosher dishes should ever touch that sink.

Bishul Yisroel

Q. If I buy a kosher-certified product does that mean that it is bishul Yisroel?

A. Certain foods require bishul Yisroel in order to be kosher, but many do not. Therefore, you should not assume that certified products are necessarily bishul Yisroel. [The exact details of which items do or do not require bishul Yisroel is beyond the scope of this answer.] What you can be sure of is that every reputable hashgacha definitely considers whether each food requires bishul Yisroel and only certifies those in which they either have a Jew participate in the cooking (bishul Yisroel) or decide that bishul Yisroel is not required.

Dairy Chicken Seasoning or Bread Mix

Q. Would you certify a chicken seasoning which is milchig/dairy? What about a dairy bread mix?

A. The answer depends on whether these were packaged for industrial/food-service use or for retail/consumer use.

• If they were packaged for industrial use, we would certify both of those items on condition that the word "dairy" is included in the product name (e.g., "Howie's Finest Dairy Chicken Spice Blend") to make sure the end-user knows these items are dairy.

• If they were packaged for retail use, we would certify the chicken seasoning (with the same stipulation outlined above), but not the bread mix. The difference between the cases is pretty clear - all kosher consumers know that they cannot use dairy (seasoning) on chicken, but not every consumer is familiar with the halacha that it is forbidden to bake dairy bread (Shulchan Aruch YD 97:1). Accordingly, allowing a company to sell kosher dairy bread mix might lead a consumer to unknowingly think it can be used as-is.

Gevinas Yisroel

Q. What does it take to create "Gevinas Yisroel"?

A. In the times of the Mishnah, the Rabbis forbade the consumption of a non-Jew's cheese, even if all the ingredients are kosher. Such cheese is referred to as gevinas akum (a non-Jew's cheese), and there are two opinions as to what is required to render cheese as the permitted gevinas Yisroel (a Jew's cheese): Rema YD 115:2 rules that the Jew must see the production of the cheese, while Shach 115:20 argues that the Jew must either own the cheese or participate in its production.

Most Poskim accept the ruling of Rema, and, therefore, the baseline of kosher cheese certification is that a Jew must be present at the production to ensure that it is made with kosher rennet. [Rennet is the additive that causes milk to turn into cheese. The reason Chazal required gevinas Yisroel is to ensure that the rennet is kosher and not from the stomach of a cow which did not have shechitah]. Many hashgachos are also particular to satisfy the opinion of the Shach and will, therefore, insist that the Mashgiach is the one who puts the rennet into the vat of milk to convert it into cheese.

Liquid Eggs

Q. How do hashgachos make sure that there are no blood spots in (certified) liquid eggs? Do they have a Mashgiach in the egg company checking every egg?

A. Rema YD 66:5 rules that the minhag is to only check eggs for blood spots "during the daytime". Rav Herschel Schachter explained that this means to say that the minhag is to check eggs when it is somewhat easy to do, and, therefore, during the day when there is plenty of sunlight, one should check their eggs. However, during the nighttime, when it was difficult (in those times) to check for blood spots, there is no requirement to check them.

Based on this understanding, the standing policy in most American hashgachos is that at a certified restaurant or caterer the on-site Mashgiach checks all eggs for blood spots, because that is considered "easy" to check, such that it falls under the requirements of the minhag. However, in factory-produced eggs (e.g., liquid eggs, powdered eggs) it is not easily possible to have a Jew stand by and check all eggs; therefore, the minhag does not require one to hire a special Mashgiach just to perform that task.

It so happens that in most modern countries the companies will "candle" their eggs and/or use other methods to remove just about all blood spots, and it is, therefore, rare to find a blood spot in liquid eggs. However, from a halachic perspective this is not required by the minhag (and if it were required, then the people performing the candling would not have the ne'emanus required to fulfill it).

Safety of Food Ingredients

Q. I have read many studies which show that bisphenol-a (BPA) and diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), used in canned foods and plastics, can leach into food and cause all types of health issues. If so, how can you certify food as kosher if it contains those ingredients or if they are used in the packaging of kosher foods?

A. It is surely true that ingredients which are dangerous should not be used in kosher food, and we would never certify a product which we thought might be hazardous. For example, we will only certify a caterer as kosher if they have already obtained a permit from the local Board of Health (and, therefore, will not certify caterers working out of the proverbial "basement"). However, we leave the decision as to which chemicals are or are not unsafe to the experts in those fields who have been assigned to such oversight (e.g., FDA) and do not second-guess their decisions. Accordingly, we do not consider it within the purview of our responsibility to develop an independent opinion on these matters; we rely on government or NGO to create and enforce policies in these areas.

Sephardic Standards

Q. Do foods certified by the cRc meet the stricter Sephardic standards for chalak/glatt and bishul Yisroel?

A. Our hashgacha is primarily for Ashkenazim, and, therefore, we follow Rema (and other Ashkenazic Poskim), even if that results in a more lenient position. Some cRc food service establishments make an extra effort to meet Sephardic standards; for updated information on these establishments, please check the restaurant's information on our website, call the cRc office, or speak to the restaurant's on-site Mashgiach.

Truck Wash

Q. Why does a truck wash need a hechsher?

A. Tanker trucks that carry liquid products must be dedicated to carry only kosher products, so that no b'liah (absorbed taste) of non-kosher product is absorbed into the kosher product. Separately, the wash facility that cleans the truck between products will sometimes reuse water from one truck to another, such that b'liah may transfer from a non-kosher truck to a kosher one. [Similarly, there are times that the water is heated in a manner which allows for cross-contamination.] A truck wash which is set up in a manner that does not pose a problem, can be certified as "kosher", which essentially means that it is suitable for the washing of dedicated-kosher tanker trucks.

Liver

Q. Can you advise me about cRc policy regarding the use of livers not kashered within three days. Can it be used in chopped liver? What about for other uses?

A. The general rule is that meat should be salted/kashered within three days of slaughter, and if it is not then (a) the blood can only be removed via broiling (as opposed to salting), and (b) the meat cannot be cooked after it is broiled (Shulchan Aruch YD 69:12). There is a discussion in the Poskim as to whether the three-day-clock stops "ticking" if the meat is frozen, and the cRc is machmir about that issue. Therefore, all meat served (or sold) in cRc-certified establishments or sold with the cRc logo, must have been kashered within 72 hours of shechita, even if it had been frozen. This is the rule for most meat, but liver is treated somewhat differently.

Liver must be kashered via broiling (rather than by salting), and there is a disagreement as to whether liver which was broiled after three days can be subsequently cooked. Shach (69:51) implies that liver has the same status as other meat: if three days passed between the shechita and kashering, it may not be cooked. In contrast, Aruch HaShulchan (69:70) argues that the entire three-day-rule does not apply to liver. In this matter, the cRc basically follows the stricter opinion but recognizes the legitimacy of the more lenient approach.

Accordingly, cRc-certified establishments which cook or fry liver must use liver which was kashered within 72 hours of shechita (even if the liver had been frozen). However, they may sell raw or broiled liver without indicating how many days have passed since shechita. Consumers who are particular not to cook liver unless it was broiled within three days of shechita (as per Shach) are encouraged to ask the merchant for details as to when the shechita occurred.

Calorie Shake

Q. I have a student who does intensive exercise and body-building. His regiment requires him to consume an enormous number of calories - between 5,000 and 7,000 per day. He says that obtaining these calories by eating many regular meals is not feasible, and to meet the needs of athletes there are special "calorie shakes" that athletes drink during the day. The problem is that he has not found such a supplement with a Hechsher (except for some that are high in soy, which he cannot tolerate). Can you provide us with some guidance?

A. All such products require a reliable hashgachah. I am not aware of the particular ones available, and you may want to try www.koshervitamins.com as they may have something suitable.

Antacid

Q. I wonder if you could tell me if antacid tablets need a hechsher.

A. Antacids are primarily made of ingredients which are innocuous from a kosher perspective. However, they contain flavors, and there is no way to know whether those flavors are kosher unless the antacid bears some form of kosher certification. Therefore, based on the assumptions that (a) chewable antacids are considered edible and (b) flavors of unknown status should be considered non-kosher, we cannot recommend them without hashgachah.

Children's Medicines

Q. Do children's liquid and chewable medicines have to be kosher?


A. The answer to your question depends on the answers to three other questions:

1 - Are liquid and chewable medicines considered edible?
Liquid and chewable medicines taste good enough that a child can "get them down" but typically do not taste as good as something a person would consider eating if they weren't ill. Some Poskim hold (based in part on Shulchan Aruch OC 442 as per Mishnah Berurah 442:20) rule that such items are not considered edible and may be consumed regardless of whether the ingredients are kosher. According to this opinion, there is no need to investigate whether a given medicine is kosher (or to consider the two other questions listed below), and a child may take any liquid or chewable medicine much in the way that adults may take any medication in tablet form. Others argue that nowadays these medicines are tasty enough to qualify as "edible"; therefore, they hold that if the ingredients are not kosher, then one may not give it to the child unless they can "correctly" answer the next two questions.

2 - Are there any substitutes?
If there is an alternate method of treating the illness which either uses an inedible medicine (e.g., a tablet) or one that has no kosher-sensitive ingredients, then one may not use the non-kosher medicine. For example, one may not use liquid acetaminophen that contains non-kosher glycerin if there are other brands that bear a reputable hashgachah or do not contain any glycerin. If no alternative exists, then we must consider one last question before deciding if the medicine is acceptable.

3 - Does the condition warrant taking a (possibly) non-kosher medicine?
One may consume a non-kosher medicine if (there is no kosher alternative, and) there is even the slightest chance that if one does not treat the illness it might endanger someone's life. Almost every single case where antibiotics are prescribed for a child meets this criteria, because if these illnesses are not treated they may lead to more serious complications which can be life threatening. Accordingly, such medicines may be consumed regardless of whether the medicine's ingredients are kosher. If the medicine is merely used to relieve discomfort (e.g., a laxative) but will not treat or help in the treatment of a serious illness, then the medicine can only be consumed if one can first ascertain that the ingredients are kosher.

We do however caution that before deciding to not give a specific medicine to a child, one should consult with their doctor and Rabbi who will consider the different factors and render a decision that is specific to your situation.

Coated Pills

Q. Some non-chewable pills have a sweet coating to help the pill go down more smoothly, but if one chewed the pill it would presumably be bitter [from the inner content]. Is this considered an "edible pill" which requires hashgacha or is it still like other pills that can be used regardless of the ingredients?


A. There are different ways to view those types of coatings, and most consider them to be edible coatings (on an inedible pill) which require kosher certification. However, in most cases the coating is merely a sugary coating that doesn't need hashgacha and not a flavored one that would. You can tell what the coating is made of by looking at the list of inactive ingredient where you'll either see "flavor" listed (or something similar) or just sweeteners (e.g. sucrose).

Colonoscopy

Q. To prepare for my colonoscopy, my doctor said I should drink a special solution. Are those drinks kosher?

A. It appears that there are two types of solutions used to flush the patient's colon, one of which is polyethylene glycol-based (e.g. GoLYTELY) and the other is sodium phosphate-based (e.g. Fleet Phospho-soda EZ Prep). The ingredients used in the unflavored versions of both of these solutions do not pose a kashrus concern and may be consumed. These solutions are also available pre-flavored or with a "flavor pack" that one adds to the solution; it is preferable that one avoid using the flavor pack, but if you cannot swallow the drink without the flavor pack, then you may use it.

In recent years, a third option has become available - sodium phosphate tablets (e.g. Osmo-Prep, Visicol). As with all other inedible tablets which are swallowed (as opposed to chewed), these tablets may be used regardless of which ingredients they contain.

Gelatin Capsules

Q. What is the cRc stand on products that have a gelatin exterior?

A. Gelatin capsules come in two forms: (a) hard gelatin capsules which are made of pure gelatin that is formed into a (somewhat hard) two-part capsule with the powdered medicine inside, and (b) softgel capsules which are made of gelatin mixed with glycerin, sorbitol and some other food ingredients and formed into a (somewhat softer) solid capsule with liquid medicine inside. Both forms of gelatin have edible food uses, and, therefore, require kosher certification. However, since the capsules are consumed in an atypical manner (i.e., pure, as opposed to the typical manner which is to dilute them in other foods), they may be consumed by someone who is incapacitated by his sickness (choleh she'ain bo sakanah) and has no gelatin-free alternative. [This position is based on the presentation of the gelatin (i.e., that they are pure) and not because the capsule is swallowed.]

For example, someone who takes vitamins for their general health and wellbeing would not be permitted to consume a vitamin that comes in a softgel, but a person who requires antibiotics that are only available in a gelatin capsule may use it. The difference between the cases is that in the former, the person's condition is not severe enough to warrant consuming a gelatin capsule, but in the latter case it is.

Glucose Tolerance Test

Q. My obstetrician wants me to take a glucose tolerance test which requires me to drink a special beverage. Are there any kashrus concerns with drinking it?


A. The primary ingredients in the glucose-drink are water and glucose, and both of those are acceptable without kosher certification. However, the drinks are typically flavored, and, therefore, require kosher certification to be sure the flavor does not contain any non-kosher ingredients.

Therefore, we recommend that you either find an unflavored glucose-drink which meets with your doctor's approval, or ask the doctor to order a glucose-drink which is certified kosher. If none of these options are viable, please consult with your local Rabbi who can advise you whether you should nonetheless take the uncertified glucose-drink.

Gripe Water

Q. There is a product for babies called gripe water which has been used in Europe for over 100 years. It is taken orally for gas and colic. Does it need a hechsher?

A. Gripe water refers to a mix of herbal extracts which are believed to be beneficial in relieving colic for newborn babies. Since it is given to the baby in a liquid, edible form, it must meet a standard of kashrus similar to other edible remedies. It often includes kosher-sensitive ingredients (glycerin, citric acid and flavor), and we, therefore, cannot recommend this product without kosher certification.

Homeopathic Remedies

Q. I am looking into homeopathic solutions and I came across several halachic concerns, such as kishuf (forbidden witchcraft), gevinas akum, stam yayin, and other kosher-sensitive ingredients. I was wondering whether the cRc had more information and maybe even an official position on these "medications".


A. You are correct that the active and inactive ingredients used in homeopathic remedies may be non-kosher, and you should definitely consult with your local Rabbi before consuming any of these items. He will consider the ingredients in the given product and other factors in deciding whether it is appropriate for you.

Infant Formula Without Certification

Q. My pediatrician told me that my child should use a specialized infant formula but I see that it does not have a kosher certification. Can I use it anyhow?


A. Most of the infant formula produced in the United States is kosher-certified and does not pose any concern to kosher consumers. There are even plenty of kosher options for children who cannot tolerate standard formula.

However, there is one type of infant formula whose status is a bit more complicated. This formula - which is sold under the names "Nutramigen" or "Alimentum" - includes an enzyme derived from pigs, and this enzyme helps pre-digest certain proteins to make the formula tolerable for certain children. Pigs are not kosher, and clearly a formula that contains pig byproducts cannot be certified as kosher. Nonetheless, due to the relatively small amount of non-kosher mixed into the formula Jewish Law allows children to consume the formula. [These formulas are produced at companies where all of the other ingredients are certified as kosher.]

Lastly, there is Neocate, an infant formula for children with severe food allergies. It is not kosher-certified, but Rabbis from different kosher agencies have visited the factory and are in contact with the company to assure that all ingredients used are kosher.

Probiotics

Q. I'm researching probiotics was wondering if you can comment on the kashrus issues of probiotic supplements. [Probiotics are microorganisms which are considered helpful to digestion and general health.]


A. Probiotics which are in a swallowable pill form are not edible, and are, therefore, acceptable for use, even if they are not kosher-certified. Those sold in powder or liquid form must bear kosher certification for the following reason: Sometimes the probiotic itself is kosher-sensitive due to the ingredients it contains or how it is processed (spray-drying or freeze-drying), and other times the inactive ingredients (e.g. lactose, flavor) are what makes the overall product require kosher certification. If a consumer has a question about a specific probiotic, they should send the active and inactive ingredients to [email protected] and someone can try to help them determine if it is suitable for kosher use.

Purell

Q. May I use hand sanitizer on Shabbos and Yom Tov?


A. Rav Gedalia Dov Schwartz, zt"l, said that using a hand sanitizer such as Purell on Shabbos and Yom Tov is no different than using liquid soap; Iggeros Moshe (OC 1:113) holds that this is not permissible, but many Poskim hold that it is permitted (see Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchaso 14:16). Rav Schwartz accepts this latter approach. [Hand sanitizers and hand soaps contain fragrances which do impart a pleasant smell to the person's hand, but Rav Schwartz said that most Poskim follow Chacham Tzvi 92 who (argues on Taz 511:8 and) holds this doesn't pose a concern.]

It should be noted that the hands-free Purell dispenser found in some public buildings is battery operated and should not be used on Shabbos or Yom Tov.

Recommended for Cholim

Q. I see that on your OTC medicine list, some items are listed as being "Recommended" and others are "Recommended for cholim". What's the difference between those two recommendations?


A. In determining the status of items for the cRc OTC medicine list we not only consider the ingredients but also the medical condition for which the person would typically be taking that remedy. In that context, there are ingredients that we do not recommend for healthier people but can permit for those who are more ill.

There are, however, some OTC items which are used both by people who are sicker and those who are healthier. In that case, if we cannot recommend it for everyone, we write that it is only "recommended for cholim (sick people)".

Sea-Band

Q. My friends recommended that I chew Sea-Band ginger gum to relieve my pregnancy-related nausea. Do you know if it is kosher?


A. As far as we know, it is not certified as kosher; therefore, we are unable to recommend it. However, the company did suggest that you try their Sea-Band wrist band which (they claim) is also able to reduce nausea merely by wearing it on one's arm. Of course, this item is not ingested and does not pose a kashrus concern. [As always, we have no idea as to the efficacy of either the gum or wrist band, and are just commenting on the kashrus part of this issue.]

Fever Reducer

Q. I want to buy a generic version of Tylenol or Motrin, but I have heard that there may be kashrus issues. Can you shed any light on this? Do you know which brands are okay and/or which ingredients to look out for?


A. Liquid medicines are considered edible, and, therefore, one must be certain that the ingredients are kosher before consuming them. The most sensitive of ingredients commonly used in these medicines is "glycerin" (also known as "glycerol"), and the kashrus concerns with that ingredient are that it may be produced from non-kosher animal fat; even if it is made from vegetable oil it may be processed (very hot) on equipment also used for animal fat. Glycerin is edible, sweet tasting, and can comprise as much as 20-30% of a liquid medicine, and, therefore, non-kosher glycerin poses a serious concern for someone consuming liquid medicine.

Liquid medicines may also contain other kosher-sensitive ingredients, but none of those ingredients are as sensitive as glycerin. Chewable pills rarely contain glycerin, but these may also contain some less-sensitive ingredients.

In situations where a child requires one of these products for a more serious need (e.g. high fever, infection) a Rabbi may rule that the child is permitted to take the medicine in spite of the questions regarding the source of glycerin. If you have such a situation, we recommend that you be in touch with your local Rabbi who can answer your specific question.

Vitamin Pills

Q. Do non-chewable vitamins pills require hashgacha?

A. Rav Gedalia Dov Schwartz, zt"l has ruled that consumers should only use vitamin pills which carry an acceptable kosher certification, unless (a) there is no kosher alternative and (b) the vitamins are used to treat a medical condition (as opposed to for general health and wellbeing). For certified kosher vitamins and many other products, you might want to check www.koshervitamins.com.

Cheeseburger for a non-Jew

Q. May I give a non-Jewish person a cheeseburger (since it might be basar b'chalav)? May I give a non-Jewish person a coupon for a free cheeseburger that is basar b'chalav?


A. The answer to both questions is "no".

Meat and milk which were cooked together are called "basar b'chalav", and one may not have any benefit or pleasure from them. If you were to give the cheeseburger (or a coupon for one) to a non-Jew, then that would generate goodwill between the two of you, and that goodwill is considered a forbidden direct benefit from the cheeseburger.

Double Oven

Q. I am in the process of remodeling my kitchen. May I buy double ovens and use one for fleishig and the other for milchig? I heard that they may have a common venting system. If this is the case, are there any brands that are exceptions to the rule?


A. There are some double ovens that share vents in a manner that allows steam/vapor to travel from one chamber to the other, and in that case, you should not use one chamber for meat and the other for dairy. If the oven comes with a Sabbath-mode, the agency who certifies that Sabbath-mode will probably know whether the two chambers share vents in a problematic manner. Alternatively, you might want to have an engineer or handyman investigate the particular oven you're considering to see if they share a vent.

Grana Padano

Q. I gave my boss a piece of this wonderful (kosher) cheese called "Grana Padano" and then his wife brought him a cold-cut sandwich for lunch. Is there anything wrong with eating the meat sandwich immediately after the cheese?


A. The general rule is that after eating a "standard" cheese, one may eat meat after rinsing their mouth, eating something pareve, and checking their hands to be sure there is no cheese residue (Shulchan Aruch YD 89:2). However, Rema rules that after eating a "hard cheese" one must wait 6 hours before eating meat, and Shach 89:15 clarifies that cheeses which are aged for 6 months are classified as "hard cheese". Grana Padano cheese is a variation of parmesan cheese produced in a specific region of Italy, and since such cheeses are generally aged much longer than 6 months, your boss will have to wait 6 hours before eating his meat sandwich.

Meat Pot for Dairy Soup

Q. I have a fleishig pot which has not been used for over 24 hours, and I want to cook a pareve soup in it, and then pour it into milchig dishes where I'll add sour cream. Is that permitted?


A. No. Since the pot is fleishig, one may not cook soup in it with intention of then adding dairy items into it.

Milk & Honey Hand Soap

Q. I know that glycerin can come from animal fat. If so, is there a problem of basar b'chalav to use milk and honey hand soap which contains both glycerin and milk in the ingredients?


A. If meat and milk are cooked together, they create basar b'chalav which one may not (eat or) even have pleasure from. Accordingly, if animal-based glycerin is cooked with milk one would be forbidden to have any benefit from the resulting mixture. However, one is only forbidden from having benefit (hana'ah) from meat and milk which are cooked together, and the typical method of producing hand soap would be to just blend the glycerin and milk ingredients without any cooking. Accordingly, one would be permitted to derive benefit from that hand soap even if it contains both meat and milk.

Other factors to consider in this case are that (a) the glycerin may be from pig fat or vegetable oil, both of which would not create basar b'chalav (and only beef-based glycerin would raise a concern because beef is from an inherently kosher animal), and (b) there is likely a very small amount of milk in the soap such that the milk is batel b'shishim (less than 1/60 of the mixture) and does not give the status of basar b'chalav to the mixture.

Based on the above, it is permitted to use the hand soap.

Pet Food

Q. Are there any restrictions as to which foods I may feed my pet?


A. Pets are not required to keep kosher (even if they feel like a full-fledged member of the family!), and, therefore, they are permitted to eat non-kosher food. However, there are certain non-kosher foods which we are not only forbidden from eating, but we are even enjoined not to have any benefit/pleasure from them. One may not give these foods to a pet because when one does so, they - the owners - are having a forbidden benefit from the non-kosher food. The lists of foods which have this stricter restriction (known as assur b'hana'ah) include:

• Milk and meat which were cooked together (see below).

• Chametz on Pesach (and on Erev Pesach after a given time that morning).

• Non-kosher wine or grape juice (according to many opinions, see Shulchan Aruch & Rema YD 123:1, Shach 108:25 & 124:71, Mishnah Berurah 467:33 and Sha'ar HaTziun 467:57).


Within the first category (milk and meat cooked together) some of the details are that:

• It is limited to beef, lamb, or goat meat (even if they are not kosher) and does not apply to poultry or to non-kosher species (e.g. pork) (Shulchan Aruch YD 87:1 & 3).

• It includes most dairy products (e.g. whey, milk powder, casein) but does not apply to lactose, because it is only considered dairy mid'rabannan. [It is known as meimei chalav; see Shulchan Aruch YD 87:8, 81:5 and Shach 81:12.]

• The milk and meat must be cooked together, but if they are merely blended together without heat, the mixture is non-kosher but may be fed to pets. [For this reason, hand soap that contains animal fat and milk may be used; the ingredients are blended but not cooked together.]


Some of the details regarding chametz in pet food are:

• We cannot benefit from chametz but can have benefit from kitnios. Therefore, our pets can eat foods made from rice, corn, soy, etc., even though we would not eat them on Pesach. [Any utensils used with kitnios should be washed in a sink which is not used for Pesach dishes.]

• In checking pet food ingredients for chametz, not only should you be on the lookout for the five chametz grains - wheat, barley, rye, oats and spelt - but you should also avoid brewer's yeast (a common flavoring agent, which is chametz), grain distillers dried yeast (likely chametz), malt (a barley-based sweetener), pasta, and other generic words which may refer to a chametz ingredient (e.g., flour, gluten, middlings, starch).

• Many varieties of animal food contain a multitude of vitamins, minerals and amino acids some of which may well be chametz, and there is no realistic way for a consumer to determine which of them are problematic. The good news is that vitamins comprise such a small percentage of animal food that they are batel (nullified). Therefore, it is generally accepted that if the animal food was created before Pesach, it may be used on Pesach.

Accordingly, when choosing pet food, one must be sure that it does not contain any of the aforementioned items.

The cRc assists pet owners with this task by reviewing the formulations of several pet foods made by a specific company and approving of their use for Pesach and year-round. Many other pet foods are also acceptable for use by anyone who is familiar with food ingredients and has the knowledge and patience to review the ingredient panel.

Brandy (non-kosher) in Dough

Q. Someone mixed non-kosher brandy into dough. Is it batel b'shishah or b'shishim?

A. Brandy is a distilled product made from pure wine, and typically it would not have any other ingredients of significance. [Distillation is a process which uses heat to concentrate alcoholic beverages via separating the (desirable) alcohol from the (less-desirable) water.]

The primary reason why a brandy would be not kosher is because it is stam yayin (wine touched by a non-Jew), and the bitul/nullification of stam yayin has a unique halacha. If stam yayin was mixed into a beverage (other than wine) it is batel b'shishah (batel if diluted in 6 times its volume), and if was mixed into a solid food, then it requires the standard bitul b'shishim. [For more on this, see Shulchan Aruch YD 134:2 & 5, Taz 114:4, Nekudos HaKesef ad loc., and Iggeros Moshe YD 1:62.]

Accordingly, in this situation, the dough is only permitted if it contained 60 times the volume of the brandy.

Arlah

Q. I recently was in Israel and was told not to eat certain fruits, as they were arlah. Is this something that we need to be concerned about here in America?

A. Fruits that grow in the first three years after a tree is planted are forbidden to eat and derive benefit from; this mitzvah is known as "arlah". [The exact determination of when those three years ends is somewhat complicated and beyond the scope of this article.] In Eretz Yisrael there are lists which provide information as to the arlah status of different fruits, and there are some fruits grown there that are essentially not eaten at all due to arlah concerns.

Typically, mitzvos that depend on the land are applicable only in the land of Israel, but arlah is an exception, as it applies worldwide - in a somewhat modified form. Outside of Eretz Yisrael, the only fruit which is forbidden are those which are definitely arlah. If there is any doubt as to whether a given fruit is arlah, then it may be eaten. Accordingly, even if a significant percentage of trees are arlah, once the fruit reaches the market, it is impossible to identify the specific arlah fruit; therefore, all of them are permitted. As a result, essentially the only fruits in chutz la'aretz which are subject to the prohibition of arlah are those that were grown in a home garden, where the owner knows which fruits are within their first three years.

The above leniency refers only to fruit that grew in chutz la'aretz. Fruit grown in Israel is subject to the full restrictions of arlah, even if one is unsure if the given fruit is arlah and even if that fruit was exported to chutz la'aretz.

(Rabbi Mordechai Millunchick - For more on this topic, see his sefer, Midarkai Ha'ilanos)

Calculating Arlah Years

Q. In June 2022 I planted a dwarf apple tree that I purchased from a nursery. May I eat the fruit of the tree as soon it they grow, or must I wait the arlah years?

A. The Torah says that one must wait three years after a tree is planted before one can eat from its fruit; this mitzvah is called "arlah". During the fourth year, the fruit are called "revai" and may be eaten only after being redeemed in a specific manner. [Speak to your Rabbi about how to redeem revai.] Any fruit that begins growing after the end of the fourth year may be eaten without restriction.

Typically, mitzvos that depend on the land are applicable only in the land of Israel; arlah is an exception, as it applies worldwide. Therefore, your tree is subject to arlah restrictions, and one may not eat or derive benefit from any arlah fruits.

Since you planted your tree in the summer of 2022/5782, it will finish its first year on Rosh Hashanah 2022/5783, its second year on Rosh Hashanah 2023/5784, and the third year of arlah on the 15th of Shevat of 5785 (February 13, 2025). [A young sapling finishes its years on Rosh Hashanah (1 Tishrei), while a tree (older than three years) finishes its years on the 15th of Shevat.] From 15 Shevat 5785 to 15 Shevat 5786 the apples are revai and should be redeemed.

If your tree was older than one year old when you purchased it, the arlah years may be shortened.

(Rabbi Mordechai Millunchick - For more on this topic, see his sefer, Midarkai Ha'ilanos)

Hafrashas Challah Amounts

Q. How much flour must be in a dough, for me to be required to be mafrish challah?

A. The general rule is that if one bakes a large enough batter of any of the five primary grains, they must be mafrish challah. Everyone agrees that the five primary grains are wheat, barley, rye, oats, and spelt, but there is a three-way disagreement as to how much of those grains must be in a batter for hafrashas challah to be required, as follows:

Shulchan Aruch (OC 456:1 & YD 324:1) tells us the shiur (quantity) for which hafrashas challah is required is equal to the volume of 43.2 eggs. Thus, the shiur is volumetric and is equal to the displacement of 43.2 eggs. How does that translate into modern measurements? The three primary opinions are Rav Avraham Chaim Na'ah, Rav Moshe Feinstein, and Chazon Ish who, respectively, are of the opinion that 43.2 eggs is the same volume as 10.5, 15, or 18.25 (eight ounce) cups. The common practice is that if one bakes a batter with fewer than 10.5 cups of flour, they are not mafrish challah; if they use between 10.5 and 18.25 cups, they are mafrish without a bracha; and if they use more than 18.25 cups then they are mafrish challah and recite the bracha.

As noted, the shiur for hafrashas challah is a volumetric amount, and it is the same for all the five primary grains. However, the density of the different grains is not the same. Therefore, when one converts the shiur into weight the amounts are different, depending on which ingredient is being used. We calculated the conversion for wheat flour, oat flour, and whole oats, and found the following: Wheat flour - 2.75 pounds (separate without a bracha) and 4.75 pounds (separate with a bracha); oat flour - 2.5 pounds (no bracha) and 4.25 pounds (with a bracha); whole oats - 2 pounds (no bracha) and 4.25 pounds (with a bracha).

For example, if one bakes oatmeal cookies with 2 pounds of whole oats, they should be mafrish challah without a bracha, but if one bakes their own pizza with wheat flour they would not be mafrish challah unless they used at least 2.75 pounds of flour and would not recite a bracha unless they used at least 4.75 pounds.

Malt in Yoshon Products

Q. I read that it is debatable whether people who only eat yoshon need to be concerned about malt put into flour. Can you explain the issue to me?

A. A very small amount of malt is put into flour, and it is almost always batel b'shishim. At first glance, one would assume that the malt would, therefore, be batel, and the flour would be permitted. The potential issue is that chodosh is a davar sheyesh lo matirim (something which will eventually become permitted - in this case, after Pesach) and, therefore, not eligible for bitul.

However, that special status given to a davar sheyesh lo matirim is limited to mixtures which are min b'mino (i.e., like items) and does not apply to a mixture of malt and flour (see Shulchan Aruch YD 102:1). It is also noteworthy that due to the length of the malting process, chodosh malt does not come to market until somewhat late in the "yoshon season" (likely sometime in December).

Accordingly, many people who are particular to only eat yoshon are lenient and will consume flour without first ascertaining if the malt is chodosh. Whether you should choose to follow this ruling is something that you should discuss with your own Rabbi.

Planting Arlah Fruit

Q. I have a cherry tree that that is within its first three years of growth. I know that I can't eat the (arlah) fruit. Can the pits from the current yield be utilized for planting another tree?

A. No.

When one plants a fruit tree, they need to count three years from the time of planting. It is forbidden to derive benefit from all fruits grown during those years, and the fruit is known as "arlah". [The fruit of those years remains forbidden forever, even if the tree subsequently "ages-out" of the arlah prohibition.] Arlah is unusual in that not only may one not eat it, but it is also assur b'hana'ah, which means that one may not derive any benefit or pleasure from the arlah. One example of the issur hana'ah is that it is forbidden to plant the seeds or nuts of arlah, and, therefore, the cherry pits cannot be planted. [However, one may replant a branch, tree, or sapling which is within the arlah years, as the tree itself is not forbidden.]

Although one should not plant the arlah cherries, if one mistakenly did, the tree that grows is not forbidden, and the fruit that grows on that tree is permitted (after its years of arlah are completed). The reason for this is that the tree that subsequently grew is not a product of arlah fruit alone; rather, other permitted factors (e.g., water, soil, minerals) contributed to the fruit's growth. This leniency is known as zeh v'zeh gorem and is permitted post-facto.

[Answer by Rabbi Mordechai Millunchick. For more on this topic, see his sefer, Midarkai Ha'ilanos, Hebrew section, Siman 5 (page 27)].

Replanted Tree

Q. If we replant a tree, does the 3-year arlah count start from when the tree was originally planted or when we replanted it?

A. If (you live out of Eretz Yisrael and) the tree was purchased balled, burlapped, or in a pot (i.e., not "bare root"), you count from the original planting. But if the tree was planted bare root, or if the dirt fell off from around the tree when it was planted, you must restart the count from when you replanted it.

Shemittah Wine

Q. I saw an Israeli kosher wine from 2022 which was a shemittah year. Is it okay to drink it?

A. During shemittah there are foods which are distributed using the Otzar Beis Din system where - basically - a Beis Din represents all the consumers by collecting the produce from the hefker fields, bringing it to the cities where people live, and giving it out for "free". The Beis Din is allowed to charge for their services (delivery, packaging etc.), and they usually hire the farmer to do that work, so he can make a few dollars during shemittah. Assuming the Otzar Beis Din is done correctly, that is a good system.

Food from the Otzar Beis Din still has kedushas shevi'is, such that it cannot be wasted, bought and sold, taken out of Eretz Yisrael, etc. The question is what the status of that food is when the time of "biur" arrives. Usually, as soon as there is no more of a given fruit (e.g., oranges, apples) in the fields, people must take all that they have left in their house and make it available for everyone else. [They can also partake in this fruit if they take a small amount at a time.] That whole process is called "biur". Many hold that anything which is part of the Otzar Beis Din "system" does not require a formal biur because it is already set up in the most efficient manner for distribution to everyone. That would justify the fact that the wine made with Otzar Beis Din does not have a formal biur.

Is there kedushas shevi'is after biur? There are strong sources to indicate that after biur the fruit no longer has any kedushas shevi'is, and those who certify the wine you saw are accepting this opinion. Accordingly, once the time of biur passes they hold that the wine may be exported from Eretz Yisrael, it can be bought and sold, and the people who buy it do not have to be careful to not waste it. Others assume that kedushas shevi'is remains, even after the time of biur, and, therefore, all the above would be forbidden.

In different sources, Chazon Ish presents different rulings on this matter, but it is noteworthy that wherever Chazon Ish wrote "instructions" for standard consumers (as opposed to intricate halachic discourses) he wrote that one should be machmir on this question. Accordingly, most hashgochos do not recommend the sale and use of such wine in chutz la'aretz. However, as noted, if you have the wine, then you can drink it but should follow the rules of kedushas shevi'is when doing so (i.e., use it in its optimal manner, no wasting, etc.).

Yoshon

Q. My married daughter is going to be visiting and told me that she wants me to make sure all our food is "yoshon". I keep a kosher home but have never heard of that and was hoping you could give me a crash-course.

A. A minority of people who eat kosher hold a higher standard called "yoshon", which essentially means that they will not eat any wheat, oats, or barley until it has been "in existence" for at least one occurrence of the Pesach holiday.

For example, barley harvested in 2022 is yoshon by the fall of 2023, because it was "in existence" during Passover of 2023, but barley harvested in 2023 will not be yoshon until after Pesach 2024. The aforementioned grains are harvested during the summer; therefore, each year, from approximately August until Pesach, the yoshon consumers will have to be more particular about the pasta, flour, bread, soup, oatmeal, breakfast cereal, cake, and many other foods that they eat.

[Technically, the same rules apply to rye and spelt, but in the United States those grains are always planted in the winter and harvested after Pesach, such that they are always yoshon. Similarly, "winter wheat" is planted before Pesach and harvested afterwards, such that it is always yoshon, so only "spring wheat" (used for bread, rolls, pasta, and certain other foods) is a concern.]

Most kosher-certified products do not claim to meet the yoshon standard, and, therefore, consumers who want to eat yoshon must find products that are either (a) yoshon-certified, (b) have no wheat, oats, or barley, or (c) are known to use winter wheat. Alternatively, some people buy large quantities of specific items (e.g., barley) towards the end of the summer and use those items until Pesach. In the Chicago area fresh-baked yoshon goods are available from several bakeries, and you can find more details on the cRc website. Another great resource for this topic is www.yoshon.com.

Briquettes and Other Barbecue Supplies

Q. Do briquettes require hashgacha? How about cooking planks, wood chips, and other wood items used in a barbecue? Does it make a difference if they have a specific flavor like apple, cherry, or hickory?


A. Charcoal briquettes contain a wood byproduct (among other ingredients), and the other items listed in the question are essentially 100% wood. The flavor of the food cooked with these items is impacted by the type of wood used, and the manufacturers highlight this by identifying the source of the wood. Thus, the names "mesquite briquettes", "apple chips", and "alder pellets" refer to items made from the wood of mesquite, apple, or alder trees.

In general, these items are made from pure wood (or in the case of briquettes, wood mixed with ingredients that are not kosher-sensitive) and do not require hashgacha. The only exceptions are if the wood is pretreated, coated, soaked in wine, produced from barrels which previously held wine, or are labeled as containing some other kosher-sensitive ingredients.

Crayon Melting

Q. Is there anything wrong with melting crayons in a kosher oven?


A. From a kashrus perspective, there is no concern, although you may want to consult with health experts to ensure that doing so does not pose any safety concerns.

The main ingredient in crayons tends to be paraffin wax, an innocuous wax, and although some crayons contain kosher-sensitive ingredients such as stearic acid, those minor ingredients are batel b'rov in the inedible paraffin.

Crockpot Liners

Q. Do plastic cooking bags (crockpot liners) need to have a hechsher?


A. No. The experts we consulted with were of the opinion that the liners are made of simple and innocuous plastic and are not coated in a way that might have kashrus significance.

Electronic Cigarette

Q. Does the vape juice for electronic cigarettes pose kashrus issues?


A. Yes.

Electronic cigarettes convert a specially formulated liquid into a vapor which the person inhales in a manner that mimics the way one inhales from a traditional cigarette. The liquid (which is sometimes called "juice", "smoke-juice" or similar names) typically includes kosher-sensitive ingredients such as glycerin and flavors, and since the person imbibes the liquid/vapor, Rav Gedalia Dov Schwartz, zt"l said that the liquid must be certified as kosher. We contacted several manufacturers who claim to use only kosher raw materials, but there is no independent agency who certifies that claim. Therefore, we are unable to recommend those products.

[Separate from the pure kashrus concerns, one should consult with their doctor before deciding whether to use electronic cigarettes.]

Glue

Q. I dropped my cutting board and it cracked in half. If I want to glue the parts back together, is there any type of glue which is not kosher?


A. No, glue is not edible and - from a kashrus perspective - any kind is acceptable.

Nutrient Agar

Q. We need to heat up some nutrient agar for a science fair experiment in a microwave. I believe it is algae-based. Are there any kashrus concerns?


A. To answer your question, we would have to know more details about exactly which product you were planning on heating up, as some of them can contain non-kosher ingredients such as blood (with innocent-sounding names like "chocolate agar"). However, it may be easiest to avoid the issue by covering the agar (on top and on bottom) when you put it into the microwave, as this will prevent any potential transfer of ta'am/flavor from the agar to the microwave.

Steel Wool

Q. I was in a "kosher supermarket" and found a few brands of steel wool without a hechsher. I remember reading that oil is used in the production of steel wool to reduce friction. Does anyone know what type of oil is used? In other words, should all steel wool need to have a reliable hechsher?


A. The experts we spoke to believed mineral oil would be used for this purpose, and since mineral oil is kosher from any source you can feel free to use any steel wool even if it is not kosher-certified.

On a related topic, some steel wool comes with soap already on the steel wool. The soap does not pose a kashrus concern, even if the company acknowledges that it is made from non-kosher animal fat (as one prominent brand does), because soaps are considered inedible. Accordingly, you may use the steel wool even if it contains soap.

Wood Spoon

Q. My wife bought a wood spoon which was treated with a blend of mineral oil and beeswax. Is that a kashrus issue?


A. Wood spoon oil made of just mineral oil and beeswax is kosher without certification, and, therefore, the spoon which your wife bought may be used. If the spoon had been treated with some other oil (e.g. coconut, hemp) we would have to know the source of that oil before deciding on the status of the spoon.

Coffee in Hotel

Q. Can I drink coffee in a non-kosher hotel?

A. The answer to your question depends on where the coffee will be coming from - your hotel room or the hotel kitchen - as follows:

In many hotel rooms you will find a small coffee maker and a few pouches of ground coffee. If you can determine that all the coffee pouches are kosher [either because they contain pure unflavored coffee (regular or decaffeinated) or are certified kosher], then you can assume the coffee maker has always been used for those varieties and you may use it as kosher. If one or more varieties of provided are not kosher, then you should refrain from using the coffee maker.

In some upscale hotels, the coffee makers are removed from the rooms and washed in the hotel kitchen. In those cases, we would not recommend using the coffee maker, since there is no way to know if it was washed together with non-kosher dishes.

On the other hand, we are not able to recommend you taking a cup of coffee or hot water from the hotel kitchen or restaurant. In most cases, coffee served in a non-kosher hotel from an urn, metal coffee pot, pump bottle, or other container cannot be assumed to be kosher, because the containers may have been previously used with non-kosher hot drinks and/or washed together with non-kosher dishes. For example, coffee urns are sometimes used in hotel kitchens as "ladles" to move soup from large kettles into individual bowls. There are limited situations in which one can determine that neither of these concerns applies, and in those cases it is to drink the coffee; otherwise we cannot recommend it.

Microwave Popcorn

Q. Is it permissible to cook kosher microwave popcorn (sold in a bag) in microwave oven that has not been kashered?

A. Yes, you can use the non-kosher microwave for a bag of kosher popcorn; the only caveats are that (a) the microwave must be relatively clean of all residue, and (b) if the bag rips open in the microwave, that whole batch of popcorn will not be kosher.

Coffee on the Road

Please see https://consumer.crckosher.org/publications/coffee-on-the-road/ for details.

Gluten-free Food

Q. Does Pas Yisroel apply to gluten-free cookies, cakes, and crackers?


A. The very first halacha regarding pas Yisroel (Shulchan Aruch YD 112:1) is that it is only required for foods made from the five primary grains - wheat, barley, spelt, rye, or oats. Accordingly, most gluten-free food does not require pas Yisroel, because the very nature of gluten-free food is that it never contains wheat, barley, spelt, or rye. The only exception would be foods made with special gluten-free oats or gluten-free wheat starch; those foods contain one of the five primary grains, and, therefore, potentially require pas Yisroel if they meet all of the other criteria.

Coffee Machine on a Timer

Q. Is it permitted to use a coffeemaker with a timer on Shabbos if everything is prepared Erev Shabbos and the built-in timer brews the coffee on Shabbos morning?


A. Rav Gedalia Dov Schwartz, zt"l said that we should follow the ruling of Tzitz Eliezer 2:6 who prohibits this practice.

Instant Oatmeal

Q. Is instant oatmeal fully cooked? Can one make it on Shabbos?


A. The reason "instant" oatmeal can be prepared without a long cooking process is not because they are cooked at the company, but rather because the company cuts the oats a bit finer and rolls them somewhat thinner so that they'll cook more easily. Accordingly, one may not prepare instant oatmeal (or any other kind of oatmeal) on Shabbos, since they are not pre-cooked in the factory.

Starbucks Via

Q. I am interested in your research regarding using Starbucks Via on Shabbos.


A. It contains a small percentage of "micro-ground" coffee which is not cooked, and, therefore, Rav Yona Reiss, cRc Av Beth Din, ruled that it should not be used on Shabbos..

Opening Containers

Q. What is the cRc's policy regarding opening food on Shabbos that is sealed, such as Coke, bag of salad, or sugar packets. Can I open them myself, ask a non-Jew, or open it before Shabbos? What is the reason why I have to do this?


A. There is a disagreement between the Poskim as to which containers may or may not be opened on Shabbos, and we have not taken an official policy as to whether a Jew may or may open these items. For a final decision on this and similar questions we encourage you to speak to your local Orthodox Rabbi.

However, the cRc has taken a stand on this question as relates to asking a non-Jew to open the container, because that question is one that is relevant to caterers who we certify as kosher. Our policies for them are:

• Individual packets of packets of coffee, sweetener, whitener whose packaging has many words written on it should not be used because it is virtually impossible to open these packages without cutting through words.

• Cans may not be opened on Shabbos.

• Whenever possible, bottles should be opened before Shabbos, but if they were not, a non-Jew may do so on Shabbos. The same applies to aluminum foil, Saran wrap, and disposable tablecloths.

• Twist ties may be opened by the non-Jews.

Opening Oven Door

Q. If my oven or warming drawer is on for Yom Tov, is it permitted to open the oven door, or do I have to be concerned that doing so might cause the flame or heating element to turn on?


A. There are those who hold that the halacha depends on the question of safek psik reishah leshevar, discussed in Biur Halacha 316:3. According to this approach opening the door when the flame has cycled off would be permitted on Yom Tov (when creating a new flame is assur mid'rabannan) and forbidden on Shabbos (when it is assur mid'oraisah). However, Rav Gedalia Dov Schwartz, zt"l's opinion is that opening the door has such an indirect effect on whether the flame goes on, that it qualifies as the type of grama which is permitted on both Yom Tov and Shabbos, and, therefore, one may open the door at any time.

Tea Bags

Q. Can I prepare tea with a tea bag on Shabbos?


A. There is quite a discussion in the Poskim as to if and how tea can be prepared on Shabbos. Some hold that tea bags cannot be used at all, and the only way to have tea on Shabbos is to use instant tea or to pour tea essence into a cup of hot water. Others - including Rav Gedalia Dov Schwartz, zt"l - hold that one may also use a tea bag in a kli shlishi (literally "third vessel") which means that the hot water must be taken from the kettle (the first vessel), put into a cup or other container (the second vessel), and then poured into another cup (the third vessel), after which the tea bag may be placed into the hot water. [Although, as noted, the cRc position is to follow the lenient (second) approach, for several reasons we encourage cRc-certified caterers to use instant tea on Shabbos.]

Lake Michigan

Q. Is it okay to perform tevillas keilim in Lake Michigan?

A. Yes. One should consult with their Rabbi before performing tevillas keilim in a river or small lake, but there is no question that Lake Michigan is suitable.

Rust

Q. Is rust a problem for tevillas keilim?

A. Yes. Rust, stickers, and any else attached to a utensil, must be removed before tevillah.

Spice Grinder

Q. Does a spice grinder require tevillah?

A. Yes, tevillah should be performed with a bracha if the grinder has parts made from metal or glass. Tevillah is not required if the grinder is completely made of ceramic, wood, and/or a synthetic material (such as plastic).

The above is true regarding a standard spice grinder. In contrast, most disposable spice grinders do not require tevillah even if the "container" is glass. The only exception is in the uncommon situation when the grinder itself contains metal parts, in which case tevillah would be required, but no bracha would be recited.