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By Rabbi Dovid Cohen, Administrative Rabbinic Coordinator
Q. Which drinks can I buy even if they don’t have hashgachah?
A. Bottled water and seltzer do not pose any kashrus concerns, unless they are flavored. Most other additives to water – including fluoride, caffeine, and minerals – are either innocuous or always batel b’shishim, but there are some additives which are more sensitive. If one is unsure, they should check with someone who is familiar with food ingredients.
The juices of almost all fruits (and vegetables) are inherently kosher, with the exception of grape juice, which requires hashgachah to ensure that it is not stam yayin. However, once juice is squeezed out of a fruit, it will spoil within a few days, unless something is done to prevent that from happening. One option is to freeze the juice, but a more common method is to pasteurize it, which involves heating the juice for a few seconds to neutralize pathogens. Sometimes pasteurization is strong enough that the juice is “shelf-stable” which means that it does not require refrigeration; examples of that are juice boxes, cans of tomato juice, or bottles of apple juice. In other cases, a less intense pasteurization is done, and the juice must remain refrigerated to prevent spoilage. The equipment used for all types of juice pasteurization is very flexible, and can also be used to pasteurize grape juice, milk, and even such diverse items as chicken soup, and other liquid beverages. This means that pasteurization might compromise the kosher status of 100% juice. For this reason, juices require reliable kosher certification, even if they are 100% juice and do not contain any kosher-sensitive ingredients.
Soda consists of five components: water, carbonation, sweetener, flavor, and minor ingredients. We have already seen that the water and carbonation do not pose a kashrus concern, the sugar or other sweeteners are innocuous, and the minor ingredients are either inherently kosher or batel b’shishim. Additionally, because of the carbonation, soda will not spoil in the bottle, and, therefore, there is no need for pasteurization or any sort of hot processing. In fact, soda is always processed at cold temperatures, as that helps maintain the carbonation. The part which poses a concern is the flavor, and for this reason, one should only consume soda that is certified kosher. However, since the only concern is the flavor, if one knows that a given flavor (e.g., Wild Cherry Pepsi) is certified kosher, they can drink it, even if there is no kosher logo on the bottle or can. Towards this end, cRc and others maintain lists of which soda varieties are certified, to help consumers with this. However, note that a flavor which is kosher in the United States or Canada, might not be certified in Europe or South America. Therefore, when travelling, check with the local hashgachah to determine which varieties are kosher.
Energy drinks contain many more ingredients than sodas do, and for that reason alone they require hashgachah. Additionally, in most cases they are not carbonated and must be pasteurized to prevent spoilage. As noted above, the equipment used to pasteurize these drinks is invariably used for other beverages as well, and, therefore, hashgachah is required to ensure that the equipment was kosher when this beverage was processed. In that regard, one of the most challenging issues is when hashgachos try to help the factories by finding “creative” ways to get around the standard requirement that equipment not be used for 24 hours before kashering.
The issues involved with (a) hot drinks, such as coffee and tea, (b) alcoholic beverages, and (c) what is permitted on Pesach, require a separate discussion.
This article first appeared in the Let’s Talk Kashrus column, Yated Ne’eman, September 29, 2023.
For more information on drinks, please see our Beverage List, Alcoholic Beverage List, Juice Policy, and more at https://consumer.crckosher.org/lists-resources/