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By Rabbi Dovid Cohen, Administrative Rabbinic Coordinator
Q. Is it okay to buy frozen vegetables without hashgachah?
A. It is well-known that certain vegetables are infested with insects. Generally, there are ways to inspect and clean those vegetables to ensure there are no insects left, but those methods tend not to be effective for frozen vegetables. Therefore, one should not purchase frozen broccoli or frozen spinach unless it is certified as being insect-free.
Assuming one is not dealing with a vegetable which is prone to infestation, our next possible concern is additives. Meaning that sometimes a manufacturer will add spices, flavors, or other kosher-sensitive ingredients to the frozen vegetables. If they do, this would be listed on the ingredient panel, and would be a reason to avoid the vegetables (unless, of course, they are kosher-certified). In this context, salt and citric acid are not considered kosher-sensitive and do not pose a concern.
The above is all true for frozen vegetables which are raw, as is common for corn, peas, carrots, and similar items. But there are times when a vegetable is cooked before it is frozen; this is quite common with potato products, such as French fries or potato wedges. One way to know that the vegetables were cooked is by looking at the cooking instructions printed on the package. If, for example, it says that the potatoes (or rice) can be ready to eat after 5 minutes of cooking or a few minutes in the microwave, that indicates that the food was already cooked at the factory (since there is no way to cook a raw potato in 5 minutes). If the vegetable is cooked, there are concerns that it might be bishul akum and that the equipment used for cooking might also have been used for non-kosher foods; therefore, it requires hashgachah.
Although we have noted that cooked vegetables require hashgachah, the truth is that just about all frozen vegetable products do go through a brief “cooking” process known as blanching. Blanching involves submerging the vegetable in very hot water for a few minutes to release gases. This process is so brief that it doesn’t make the food any more edible than it was before (hence, no issues of bishul akum), and it is performed on equipment that seemingly is not suitable for much else other than blanching (hence, no concern it was used for non-kosher food). Therefore, blanching of vegetables does not pose a kashrus concern.
One time of the year when much of the above is treated more strictly is Pesach. The most obvious reason is that certain vegetables, such as soybeans/edamame, corn, peas, and green beans, are kitnios and cannot be eaten on Pesach. Additionally, blanching equipment can potentially be used to cook pasta, which means that there is a chance the frozen carrots (for example) absorbed chametz taste during that process. To avoid any such concerns, certain hashgachos, including cRc recommend that for Pesach, frozen vegetables should only be used with hashgachah.
This article first appeared in the Let’s Talk Kashrus column, Yated Ne’eman, January 19, 2024.
NOTE: See our Pureeing Policy for guidelines for frozen vegetables (and fruits) that may be purchased for the purposes of blending only.