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Q: I see that the cRc policy is that frozen strawberries require kosher certification. Why is that required?
A: It is well established that there are insects on fresh strawberries, and a proper washing is required in order to allow them to be eaten. [See https://askcrc.org/item/Fruits+and+Vegetable/1382 for details]. Since January 2020, cRc staff has been checking frozen strawberries to determine if the washing done to those berries at the factory is sufficient to remove the insects. We have found that in some cases the washing appears to be adequate but in others the berries remain infested. When we consulted with our peers at other hashgachos, they reported similar findings.
In situations like this, where some fruits’ infestation level has risen but others have not, the standard rule is that if it is “uncommon” (aino matzui) for there to be insects then one may eat the food, but if it is “common” (matzui) then the fruit must be checked or washed to remove the insects. [See Shulchan Aruch YD 84:8]. What constitutes common/matzui? Contemporary Poskim have deliberated that question, and as relates to strawberries there are essentially two schools of thought:
A. 10% of strawberries must contain an insect for strawberries to be deemed “commonly infested”.
B. 10% of servings of strawberries must contain an insect for strawberries to be deemed “commonly infested”.
The standard serving size for strawberries is about 5-7 berries (depending on size), and this means that Standard A is more lenient than Standard B. For if, for example, there was an average of one bug in every 25 berries, that would be just a 4% infestation rate according to Standard A, but would be a 20-28% infestation rate according to Standard B. In fact, this is exactly the case for frozen strawberries: there are too few insects to qualify as matzui according to Standard A, but there are enough insects to consider them matzui as per Standard B.
Some hashgachos follow the direction of their Poskim in adopting Standard A, and therefore will allow – and even certify – frozen strawberries based on the assumption that it is “uncommon” for them to be infested. However, Rav Schwartz and Rav Reiss שליט”א have directed us to follow Standard B, and this is also the policy of many other American hashgachos. Accordingly, henceforth, cRc does not recommend frozen strawberries without hashgachah. Furthermore, when purchasing frozen strawberries which are certified as kosher, it is recommended that consumers consult with their Rabbi to help determine which of the above standards that hashgachah follows. Please note, if the certified agency actually writes the words “free of insects” this usually indicates that these strawberries went through a special growing process or unique cleaning method that would not be relying on the above calculations and are preferable to purchase.
One exception to the above policy is that any brand of frozen strawberries may be purchased if they will be used in pureed products such as smoothies. The reason for that allowance are beyond the scope of this work, but it should be noted that it does not necessarily apply to other fruits and vegetables which are infested.
If one wishes to eat whole frozen strawberries, the following is an approved method to clean them: 1) place them in water until defrosted 2) add a generous amount of soap or kosher veggie wash 3) agitate them for 20 to 30 seconds 4) rinse off with plain water 5) enjoy!