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Alcoholic Beverages

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 or not?

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.


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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’yedhudah 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.


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Pernod Pastis

Q:

I was wondering if Pernod Pastis is a kosher alcohol beverage?

A:


Pernod Pastis is a flavored liqueur and we cannot recommend it without certification.


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Redbridge Beer

Q: Is it okay for me to drink Redbridge gluten-free beer, manufactured by Anheuser-Busch?

A: Although the product is not kosher certified, it is acceptable for kosher use.

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Berachos

Cherimoya

Q: What bracha do I recite on cherimoya fruit?

A: The bracha rishonah is borei pri ha’eitz.

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Craisins

Q: What bracha do I recite on craisins?

A: The bracha rishonah is borei pri ha’eitz.

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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 hashgachah 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


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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.


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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 brachaBoruch…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 Schwartz 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 (Kovetz 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.


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Kiwi Berries

Q: What is the bracha on kiwi berries?

A: The bracha rishonah is borei pri ha’eitz.

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Melba Toast

Q: What bracha does one recite on Melba toast? Is it considered part of the issur of pas paltar or can one eat it even if he insists on 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 Schwartz’s opinion is that the first approach is correct, and the bracha is hamotzi.

Even those who hold 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 both of the aforementioned opinions. Accordingly, one who is particular to only eat pas Yisroel (year-round or during Aseres yimei teshuvah), should not eat pas paltar Melba toast.

The only exception would be if there is no comparable pas Yisroel Melba toast available, for in that case even those who do not eat pas paltar are permitted to do so (see Shulchan Aruch YD 112:5). [This is a general rule regarding pas paltar and is not specific to Melba toast.]

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Nut Thins

Q: What is the proper bracha on Nut-Thin crackers?

A: Nut Thins are certified kosher by the OU, and they informed us that the bracha rishonah is mezonos and the bracha acharonah is borei nefashos.

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Quinoa

Q: What is the bracha on quinoa?

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

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Chametz after Pesach

Coated Pill

Q: Over Pesach I neglected to stow away some flavored Walgreens brand acetaminophen caplets with Cool Ice flavored coating along with the chametz that my family sold. After the chag, I found these pills and was concerned that they might have the issue of chametz she’avar alav hapesach. The cRc Pesach guide is already off the website, so I couldn’t check about whether the concern with these coatings was chametz or kitnios. In any case, I now wonder if I have to be worried about the acetaminophen, and if so then how I should proceed from here. I should mention that I did not actually see the chametz on Pesach and that we sold all of the chametz at our address rather than specifying certain cabinets or closets.

A: Although, as you seem to be aware, we wouldn’t recommend that you use that medicine on Pesach, if you forgot to sell it with the chametz you may feel free to use it after Pesach as the likelihood is that there is no chametz in it which isn’t batel. The fact that you sold the “whole house” instead of specific cabinets makes the answer even more straightforward.

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Fish

Kingklip

Q: I am a member of a shul with a significant South African presence, and a kashrus sheilah has recently been a subject of significant controversy.  In discussing the issue with a friend, I was told of your unique expertise in such matters, and was hoping that your expertise and guidance may help clarify the sheilah, and provide us with some insight.  The sheilah relates to a fish known as the kingklip.

A: I was working at the OU Kashrus Department when this issue was first raised there, 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, and they therefore refrained from offering their personal opinions on the matter.  The tumult which has since arisen about the kashrus of kingklip has shown the wisdom of their approach.  Thus, I encourage you to raise the question with your local Rabbi from South Africa, who will surely be able to direct you on this important question.

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Kinuach Between Meat and Fish

Q: [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.] Restaurants that serve sushi and meat often have nothing on the table to eat between the sushi/fish and meat, and I’m wondering if rice can be used for the kinuach?

A: Yes, rice is perfectly suitable for kinuach between fish and meat, as long as the rice is itself free of fish and meat.

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Peanut Butter Containing Fish

Q: I bought peanut butter 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 it is not true.  That hashgachah labels the peanut butter as “fish” because it contains a tiny bit of fish oil in it and they hold fish ingredients cannot be batel. [They do the same for orange juice, bread and some other items.] However, Rav Schwartz 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 in spite of the fish ingredient.

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Pearl Essence

Q:

 I saw someplace that “most lipstick contains fish scales” what does this mean?

A:


It’s referring to pearl essence (or pearlescence), is 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.


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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.

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Salmon with Color Added

Q:

Do I have to be concerned about salmon that is labeled as having “colored 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.


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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 hashgachah 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.


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Food Items

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.

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Baby Food (jars)

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 is cooked at high temperatures so as 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 hashgachah 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 hashgachah, even if the ingredients seem innocuous.


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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.]

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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 hashgachah 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.



In order to assure 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) and 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 hashgachah 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.]


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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 hashgachah, 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 of 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 of 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 this morning, may be used to cook the vegetarian soup in the afternoon, and the cleanup between products does not qualify as a 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.

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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:




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


  2. 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.


  3. It is basically impossible (in the USA) to purchase equipment with which to milk non-kosher animals, and 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.


  4. 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.



Accordingly, those who have always used chalav stam may continue to do so.


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Coffee (and tea) Pods

Q: I’d like to buy K-cups to go into the Keurig coffee maker. They are small pods. 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 hashgachah.

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.

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Cut Fruit

Q: Can I buy cut up fruit from a chain store like Shoprite 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.

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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.


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Fruit With Hashgachah

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 to only 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.

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Lemonade Apple

Q:

While shopping I recently came across an apple called a “lemonade apple” from New Zealand. On the sticker it also had the word “Yummy” which I believe was the brand that produced the apples. I was wondering if there are any kashrut concerns about this type of apple or other fruit that may be crossbred. Also could you possibly provide some information about the rules of kashrut regarding crossbred fruits?

A:


Apple breeders have put tremendous efforts into continuously creating new varieties of apple, and a recent article (http://bit.ly/1choNFs) listed, in detail, the 79 new types of apple created in recent years.  Among those are the Lemonade Apples from New Zealand, and that variety is kosher, as are the others listed.  [These varieties of apple should not be confused with Grapple, which is an apple infused with grape-flavor; that apple requires certification to ensure that the flavoring is kosher.]  Some details on this are presented below:



The general halacha is that one may not graft different types of trees together, but even if one did so the fruit produced from such grafting is kosher.  This prohibition, known as kilayim, is the reason why the common farming practice of grafting an almond branch onto a peach base is forbidden, but nonetheless, if one did so the resulting almonds may be eaten.  In the case of apple-breeding, many of the new breeds are actually created by crossbreeding different varieties of apple, such as Braeburn and Royal Gala apples which are bred to create the “Envy” apple.  The varieties used are often so similar to one another that there is no prohibition of kilayim at all.  These halachos are discussed in Shulchan Aruch YD 295, and readers are encouraged to seek Rabbinic guidance if they are considering crossbreeding different trees or other plants.


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Maple Syrup & Honey

Q: A friend of mine works for a reputable hashgachah, 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 so as 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.

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Milk & Juice

Q: [We drink milk which is not chalav Yisroel.] In the past, we’ve called the cRc and been told that it would be better if we would buy milk that has a kosher symbol, but if that wasn’t available then we could even buy it without certification assuming is was just plain milk with no additives (other than the vitamins). You’ve also told us that we should only buy fruit juice with hashgachah, and we were wondering what the difference is between milk and juice. Isn’t it true the pasteurizers used to hot-sterilize milk and juice is also used for non-kosher beverages; that’s why juice requires hashgachah so why can I buy plain milk if no one kashered the pasteurizer?

A: You are correct that 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 hashgachah.  We permit milk without hashgachah 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 such that the (hot) pasteurization of lots of milk is done at once, and then the bottling is done at a later time.

In contrast, most fruit juices are bottled hot such that (a) there is more equipment involved and there are therefore more b’lios which have to 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.

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Quail Eggs

Q:

Do you know which quail eggs kosher?

A:


One of the world’s experts on the kosher status of different birds is Rabbi Chaim Loike, who works for the OU.  An article which he wrote on quail can be found on their website at http://bit.ly/hgLAbV, and he has also shared with us a 22 page book which he wrote on the topic.  In these works, he notes that many species of quail are kosher but there are others which are not and therefore he recommends (on page 11 of the book) 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.”


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Rose Water

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

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 if 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 hashgachah.

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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 because (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 at  http://bit.ly/fvZ1bh.


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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.

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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, it could possibly not satisfy the requirements of bishul Yisroel, and the cRc would not recommend its use. [Written by Rabbi Abe Sharp.]

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Insects

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:


Our expert on insect infestation, Rabbi Yaakov M. Eisenbach, 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.  [For more on the fungus please see http://bit.ly/liIT9oand http://bit.ly/l9oc6I.] 


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Broccoli and Cauliflower

Q: I was wondering what the difference is between broccoli and cauliflower; why when it comes to broccoli do your guidelines say that it’s close to impossible to check and for cauliflower you provide directions?

A: We have found that bugs often crawl into the florets of broccoli, and that it very difficult and tedious for people to properly check through the tiny spaces between the parts of the floret. Accordingly, we do not recommend that consumers attempt to clean or check broccoli, and we do not allow cRc certified facilities to use fresh broccoli. [Frozen broccoli with proper kosher certification is acceptable for use.]

In contrast, our experience is that cauliflower florets are packed together so tightly that bugs are almost never found within the floret, and they are only found in the large and small branches that support the floret. Therefore that area does not need checking and we were able to write a procedure for washing and checking the rest of the food.

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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 of 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 of 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 in order to wash and check them, all of the individual leaves have to 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.

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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.  [Detailed reports on citrus scale by the University of Florida and the University of California can be found at http://bit.ly/iOQy5s(HS-817) and http://bit.ly/l7Smlb(#21529).]



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) Remaargues 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 scale 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 of oranges and other fruit intended for eating, and therefore this discussion is not so relevant for most of us.  It seems that in Eretz Yisroel citrus scale is more common, and the people there are encouraged to either remove the scale or make sure to peel the fruit carefully so as 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. 


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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 if/how to check them for infestation.

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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.

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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 one to sift their flour before use (unless they have 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 of their flour so as 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. 


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Is It Kosher...

Hippopotamus

Q:

I was taught in yeshiva that the only non-kosher animal which has split hooves but does not chew its cud is the pig. What about the hippopotamus which does not chew its cud but has split hooves? Is a hippopotamus somehow related to a pig?

A:


Before answering this question we turned to Rabbi Dr. Ari Zivotofsky, professor at Bar Ilan University and an expert on the kashrus of animals and birds, who in turn consulted with his brother, Dr. Doni Zivotofsky, D.V.M., and we thank them for their help.



You mentioned that the Torah might consider hippopotami to be “related” to pigs. Some support this notion because scientists classify those two animals as being in the same “order”. However, this is not as significant as it seems because the order they share (Artiodactyla) refers to all mammals that have an even number of toes. Actually, they used to also share a suborder but scientists are now considering removing hippopotami from the pig suborder (Suina) and reclassifying them in a new suborder for hippos, dolphins and whales, which all seem to share certain DNA. These criteria may be significant to scientists but I think most non-scientists would agree that dolphins and hippos are not one “family” (even if they are in the same order and suborder), any more than pigs and giraffes are (even though they both are Artiodactyls)! Thus, whether pigs and hippopotami share an order and suborder does not seem to be a meaningful factor. From a lay perspective, there is some similarity between pigs and hippos, but it would seem that they are not similar enough for the Torah to consider a hippopotamus to merely be a water-based pig. [The Yiddish word for hippopotamus is vasser chazir, which means water-pig, but the English name means water-horse (in Latin, hippos means horse, and potamos means river).]



Rather, it seems that the answer to your question is that the hippopotamus does not have cloven hooves. A hippo has four toes which are covered and connected by thick skin which in turn produce a web-effect and aids the hippo in swimming. Thus, a hippopotamus is much like most non-kosher animals which do not chew their cud and do not have split hooves.



[A related side note from R’ Zivotofsky regarding the hippopotamus’ ruminant status: Without exception, every animal with a 4 chambered stomach is a ruminant. There are those who dispute this and assert that the hippo is an example of an animal that has 4 chambers and is not a ruminant., but this is erroneous. In fact, it has a three chambered stomach: parietal blind sac, the stomach (which can be considered simply connecting tissue) and the glandular stomach. For more on this see: E.T. Clemens and G.M.O. Maloiy, “The digestive physiology of three East African herbivores: the elephant, rhinoceros and hippopotamus”, Journal of Zoology, 1982, Vol. 198, pp 141-156.]



 


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Kashering

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? [I thought of bringing my own portable barbecue to the park, but we’ve been told that the management of this park does not allow this due to safety concerns.]

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 be perfectly clean, which is likely not going to be easy to accomplish. 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.

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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. 


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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.  


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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 onto 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.

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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.]


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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 article on our website at  http://www.crcweb.org/kosher_articles/Kashering_in_the_Kitchen.php and/or consult with your local Rabbi. Otherwise, you can contact our office at 773-465-3900 to arrange for a Rabbi to help you with this procedure (for a fee).


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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.

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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).

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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.

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Pots

Q:

How does one kasher a large pot?

A:


To kasher a pot, you should do the following:



1. Clean it thoroughly on both the inside and outside



2. Let it sit unused for 24 hours



3. 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)



4. 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, bring a small pot (which is clean and hasn’t been used for 24 hours) 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.


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Silgranit

Q:

Can Silgranit by Blanco be kashered?

A:


Yes, it is granite bound with a synthetic/acrylic material (see  http://bit.ly/eiaREP). The reason such a mixture may be kashered is because Shulchan Aruch 451:8 rules that stone/granite may be kashered, and the position of the cRc and most American hashgachos is that synthetic materials may also be kashered.


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Kosher Certification

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, and 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 article.] What you can be sure of is that every reputable hashgachah 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.

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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 then 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) so as 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.


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Gevinas Yisroel

Q:

We are learning about Gevinas Yisroel and saw that there are two opinions as to how that is created.  I would like to know what the cRc does.

A:


In the times of the Mishnah, the Rabbis forbade the consumption of a non-Jew’s cheese even if all of 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. 



The cRc, and most reputable hashgachos, require that cheese meet both standards to be considered kosher.  Therefore, the Mashgiach will oversee the cheese-making (satisfying Rema’s requirement) and be the one to actually put the rennet into the milk vat (satisfying Shach’s requirement).  


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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, and 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 that is not required by the minhag (and if it were required then the candlers would not have the ne’emanus required to fulfill it).

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Safety of Food Ingredients

Q: I have read many studies showing 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.

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Sephardic Standards

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

A: Our hashgachah 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 call the cRc office or speak to the restaurant’s on-site Mashgiach.

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Truck Wash

Q: Just wondering – why does a truck wash need a Hechsher?

A: Tanker trucks that carry liquid products must be dedicated to only carry 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 reuses 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 setup 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.

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Meat

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 to not 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.


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Medicinal Items

Airborne

Q: A friend of mine in yeshiva was given a cold-preventing vitamin supplement called “Airborne Formula” which has no hashgachah. The supplement is dissolved in water and has a pleasant taste. This is obviously not a matter of pikuach nefesh, but my friend takes these Airborne tablets and we would appreciate knowing if he’s allowed to.

A: Airborne tablets contain a few ingredients which are kosher sensitive (i.e. they are possibly non-kosher), and therefore you may not mix it with water and consume it as an edible beverage. If you feel the tablet will provide health benefits, Rav Schwartz recommends that you swallow it as if it was a standard inedible tablet (i.e. without chewing it and without mixing it with water).

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Antacid

Q: I wonder if you could tell me if antacid tables need a hechsher.  The item in question is TopCare Antacid Calcium tablets, distributed by Topco in Skokie, IL. 

A: As with many antacids, TopCare Chewable 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 these antacids. As you are likely aware, many Tums antacid products are certified as kosher by the Diamond-K, and that might be a suitable alternative.

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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.


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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) 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 if 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 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 into 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.



 


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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 hashgachah 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 hashgachah 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).

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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, and these are not recommended.

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 tables may be used regardless of which ingredients they contain.

If someone is unable to drink the unflavored solution and their doctor recommends that they not use the tablets, then there is halachic basis for allowing the person to consume the flavored solution and they should consult with their Rabbi.

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EleCare

Q:

My baby is undernourished and unable to tolerate standard infant formula, so my doctor recommend he use special infant formula called “EleCare”. I don’t see any kosher certification symbol and was wondering if I can use it anyhow.

A:


EleCare is manufactured by Abbot, an infant-formula manufacturer who is certified by the OU. On their website,  http://elecare.com/faq.aspx, Abbot notes that EleCare formulas are also made under kosher certification using all-pareve ingredients but the formula is processed on equipment which also handles dairy formulas. Accordingly, if they were to use the OU symbol on the package they would be required to list it as being OU-D (or something similar). They feel that this would cause too much confusion to some of their customers who know EleCare to be a dairy-free product, and therefore they choose to not print a kosher symbol on the package. We confirmed this information with the OU in October 2013, and are therefore comfortable recommending this important product at this time even though it does not bear the OU symbol. It is worthwhile to recheck this information with the OU every so often to make sure that the status remains the same.


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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 are 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. its being 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.

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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. [At the time of this writing, Cardinal, Fisher, Nerl, and Perk produce some glucose-drinks which are certified kosher by the OU.] 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.

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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. The brand which I saw is made by a company called Baby’s Bliss. It does not have a Hechsher. Does it need one?

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. In the case of Baby Bliss Gripe Water, the ingredients include a number of ingredients which are kosher-sensitive (glycerin, citric acid and flavor) and we therefore cannot recommend this product without kosher certification. Other brands of gripe water (ColicCalm, Little Tummys and Wellement) have similar ingredients and also cannot be recommended.

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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.


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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”, “Alimentum” or "Soothe" – 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, but 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.]



Another formula for children with sensitive stomachs which does not bear a kosher symbol is called “Elecare”.  This product doesn’t contain any non-kosher ingredients and is certified by the OU, but it doesn’t bear an OU logo on the package. Read why at http://www.crcweb.org/faq//faqanswer.php?faqid=51.



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. 


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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 call the cRc office and someone can try to help them determine if it is suitable for kosher use.

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Purell

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

A: Rav Schwartz said that using a hand sanitizer such as Purell on Shabbos and Yom Tov is no different than using liquid soap; Iggeros Moshe (OC I: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.

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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 OTC medicine list (http://bit.ly/OTCList) 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. (If you want to understand the criteria we use, you can read the Sappirim article on the topic at http://bit.ly/KosherOTC.) 



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)”. 


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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: We contacted the company who told us that although the gum is known to be acceptable for vegetarians, it is not certified as kosher. In addition, they have not been able to provide kosher certificates for some of the kosher-sensitive ingredients included in the gum. 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.]

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Tylenol and Motrin

Q: Hi, as I’m sure you have heard infant Tylenol and Motrin have been recalled.  I want to buy a generic version 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, and 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.

It so happens that we have been able to verify that the glycerin used in the brand-name Tylenol and Motrin are kosher at this point, but of course, those items have been recalled from the market at this time. We do not have information on other brands and are therefore not able to recommend them at this time for mere pain relief (e.g. teething). 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.

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Vitamin Pills

Q:

Do non-chewable vitamins pills require hashgachah?

A:


Rav Schwartz 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 well-being). For certified kosher vitamins and many other products, you might want to check  www.koshervitamins.com.


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Milk & Meat

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 them. If you were to give the cheeseburger to a non-Jew that would generate goodwill between the two of you, and that goodwill is considered a forbidden direct-benefit from the cheeseburger. For that reason, you cannot give the cheeseburger or a coupon for one to a non-Jew.



Rav Schwartz did however say that if one had a cents-off coupon for a cheeseburger [i.e. a discount for the cheeseburger rather than a coupon for a free cheeseburger] then it would be permitted to give that coupon to a non-Jew. He reasoned that the goodwill generated by giving him that coupon is too indirectly related to the basar b’chalav, and therefore does not pose a concern.


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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 then the agency who certifies that Sabbath-mode will probably know whetehr 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.


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Empire Cold Cut Package

Q:

Empire brand cold cuts come tightly wrapped in a sealed plastic which is, in turn, inside a container that has a lid.  If I remove the cold cuts and sealed plastic from the container without breaking the seal on the plastic, can I use the container for dairy or pareve?

A:


The OU informs us that in the Empire factory the outer container never comes in contact with meat, and therefore you may choose to use it for dairy or pareve as long as you make sure to not let any meat come in contact with it in your home.


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Grana Padano

Q:

I gave my boss a piece of this wonderful 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 (see  http://bit.ly/f30TYk), 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.


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Meat Pot for Dairy Soup

Q:

I have received several conflicting answers to the following question, and desperately need a clarification.  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.


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Milk & Honey Hand Soap

Q:

Is there a problem of basar b’chalav to use milk and honey hand soap which contains both glycerin and milk in the ingredients? [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.]

A:


It is permitted to use the hand soap for the following reason.



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 cold-blend the glycerin and milk ingredients without any cooking.  Accordingly, one would be permitted to have 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 vegetable or pig sources, 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.]


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Pet Food

Q:
  1. 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 to not have any benefit/pleasure from them.  Those foods may not be fed to a pet because when one does so they – the owner – is 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 Pesachafter a given time in the 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 AruchYD 87:1 & 3).


  • It includes most dairy products (e.g. whey, milk powder, casein) but does not apply to lactose (meimei chalav – see Shulchan Aruch YD 87:8, 81:5 and Shach87:12).


  • 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.



Accordingly, when choosing a 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 a number of pet foods made by Evanger’s (see their kosher certificate at http://www.crcweb.org/LOC/Evangers.pdf) 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 patience to review the ingredient panel.


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Mistakes in the Kitchen

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.

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Mitzvos of the Land

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 concern of 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 Yisroel 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 Yisroel, the only fruit which is forbidden is one which is definitely arlah. If there is any doubt as to whether a given fruit is arlah it may be eaten. Accordingly, even if a significant percentage of trees are arlah, once the fruit reaches market it is impossible to identify the specific arlah fruit and 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. (Answer by Rabbi Mordechai Millunchick)

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Calculating Arlah Years

Q: In June 2010 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 3 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 began 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 2010/5770 it will finish its first year on Rosh Hashanah 2010/5771, its second year on Rosh Hashanah 2011/5772, and the third year of arlah on the 15th of Shevat of 5773 (January 26, 2013). (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 5773 to 15 Shevat 5774 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. (Answer by Rabbi Mordechai Millunchick)

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Garden-Grown Grapes

Q: In 2008 we purchased some “field-grown grapes” in planters with a closed bottom (e.g., no holes). We planted the grape vines in our yard in Illinois and this year (2010) we have some grapes. Are we permitted to eat them? Does the rule about letting the plant grow without eating the fruit apply here in Golus or just in Israel? As the grapes are ripe and our squirrels seem to have no reservations, halachic or otherwise, your prompt answer would be greatly appreciated.

A: We passed the question on to our resident scholar on the halachos of arlah – Rabbi Mordechai Millunchick – and this was his answer:

The laws of arlah, which prohibit the fruit of the first three years of a tree’s growth, apply both in Eretz Yisroel and in chutz la’aretz (outside of Eretz Yisroel). Regarding arlah in chutz la’aretz the halacha allows for certain leniencies some of which are applied in your situation.

The count of three years of arlah differs depending on when the vine (or other tree) is planted. There are three time periods with regards to the arlah count planted in 2008:

§ Planted before August 15, 2008, arlah ends Tu B’shvat 5771 (January 20, 2011)

§ Planted between August 16 and September 29, 2008 (the 44 days preceding Rosh HaShanah), arlah ends on Rosh HaShanah 5772 (September 29, 2011)

§ Planted after September 30, 2008 (Rosh HaShanah), arlah ends on Tu B’shvat 5772 (February 8, 2012)

The above dates refer only to one who initially planted a tree from a seed or a bare-root tree (i.e. the dirt fell away from the roots when it was transplanted from its containers). You however purchased a grown vine. If you know how old the vine is, the years of arlah can be shifted accordingly. [This leniency only applies in chutz la’aretz; in Eretz Yisroel a tree planted in a closed container would need to restart its arlah years.] If you don’t know how old the vine is you may take the nursery’s earliest estimate of the age of the tree. The age of the tree would be determined from the time the cuttings were rooted. In all probability the vine was rooted at the beginning of the season, meaning that the years of arlah would not be affected and the above dates would apply.

We have now determined the end of arlah which means that any fruit that are on the tree on or before the given date, have the restrictions of arlah. Fruit that grow after this date are not arlah. However, for one year after the conclusion of arlah, the fruits are revai, fruits of the fourth year, and those fruits must be “redeemed”. [Please contact the cRc office for the specific text for redeeming revai fruit.] After the fourth year is competed (one Jewish year from the end of arlah) the fruit may be eaten and used without restriction.

You might be wondering what to do with your arlah fruit. The arlah fruits may be disposed of in any way, but they may not be composted or used in any other way that provides you with benefit. You may choose to leave the fruit on the tree if there is no concern that they will be eaten by humans. (Squirrels may eat arlah fruit). It is probably better for the tree if the fruit are removed from the tree so that the tree can send all its energy towards strengthening the vine.

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Hafrashas Challah Amounts

Q:

 I’m mafrish challah every time I bake my 6 pound Shabbos challah recipe, and a neighbor told me I also have to be mafrish challah when I make homemade pizza.  Do I have to be mafrish challah from pizza?  If yes, how large does the recipe have to be?

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 less 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 of the five primary grains.  However the density of the different grains is not the same, and 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 – as in the original question – they would not be mafrish challah unless they used at least 2.75 pounds of flour and would not recite a bracha unless there was at least 4.75 pounds. 


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Malt in Yoshon Products

Q:

 I read that it is debatable whether people who are machmir on yoshon need to be concerned about malt put into flour.  I'm just trying to understand what is debated before I decide what to do myself. Is it for sure batel?  Is it maybe not batel because chodosh a davar sheyesh lo matirim (something which will eventually become permitted – in this case, after Pesach – and therefore not eligible for bitul)?

A:


A very small amount of malt is put into flour and it is almost always batel b’shishim.  Although you are correct that a davar sheyesh lo matirim cannot be batel, that is limited to a mixture of min b’mino (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 very late in the “yoshon season”.  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.


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Shemittah Wine

Q:

Someone in my shul told me that they were in the kosher aisle of a store and saw a 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, which is a wine from the shemittah year.  He asked me (a) how shemittah produce could be shipped out of Eretz Yisroel, and (b) whether he could drink the wine if he was sure to not spill or waste any of it.

A:


During shemittah there are foods which are distributed using the Otzar Beis Din system where – basically – a Beis Din represents all of 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.  [For sources and more details on shemittah, see the articles in Sappirim 1, 2, 4 & 8 at www.sappirim.com.]



Food from the Otzar Beis Din still has kedushas shevi’is such that it cannot be wasted, bought and sold, taken out of Eretz Yisroel, 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 of that fruit 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 setup 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 that the person in your shul saw are accepting this opinion.  Accordingly, once the time of biur passes they hold that the wine may be exported from Eretz Yisroel, 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 of the above would be forbidden.



In different locations, 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, and for that reason the wines in question are not sold at Hungarian or other cRc certified stores.  


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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 of 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 2009 is yoshon today (fall 2010) because it was “in existence” during Passover of 2010, but barley harvested in 2010 will not be yoshon until after Pesach 2011. The aforementioned grains are harvested during the summer and therefore from approximately August 2010 until Pesach 2011, 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 USA they 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, such that 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) at the beginning of the summer, and use those items until Pesach. In the Chicago area fresh-baked yoshon goods are available from Northshore Bakery, Tel-Aviv Bakery and many other stores. The cRc website has a more extensive listing of stores offering yoshon, and other yoshon information including which packaged goods are acceptable.

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Yoshon in Israel

Q: Is one who is temporarily living in Eretz Yisroel permitted to eat imported grain foods such as Cheerios, Granola Bars, etc. without checking into their production dates to ascertain whether they may be chodosh? Assuming that one is lenient in the USA, is he permitted to do so in Eretz Yisroel, or is there no lenient minhag in Eretz Yisroel to rely on?

A: The letter of the law is that chodosh is determined by where the grain was grown and not where it was eaten. Accordingly, people who are lenient regarding chodosh in the United States have the same reason to be lenient when eating American-produced food sold in Israel. However, you may want to ask a local Rov if there is a special Israeli minhag to be machmir and whether you are required to adopt that minhag.

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Non-Food Items

Aeroshot

Q:

Do Aeroshots require hashgachah?

A:


Aeroshots is a powder-based mechanism for inhaling caffeine and certain vitamins.  A number of the ingredients are kosher-sensitive and therefore Aeroshots are not recommended unless they are certified kosher.


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Briquettes and Other Barbecue Supplies

Q:

 Do briquettes require hashgachah? How about cooking planks, wood chips, grilling paper 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 hashgachah. 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.


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Cascade

Q: Is there any problem with Cascade Extra Action "Action Pacs" with Dawn? I see they have no hechsher, unlike regular Cascade which does.

A: We do not know why some Cascade products are certified kosher and others are not, and we recommend that you contact the OU, who certifies many Cascade products, as they may be able to help you.  What I can help you with is that the cRc position is that all soaps, including those used for cleaning dishes, may be used even if they are not certified as kosher.  The reason for this is that soaps are inedible such that any possible non-kosher ingredients do not pose a kashrus concern.

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Electronic Cigarette

Q: Does the juice or flavor 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 Schwartz said that the liquid must be certified as kosher. We contacted a number of manufacturers who claim to use only kosher raw materials but there is no independent agency who certifies that claim, and therefore we are unable to recommend those products. [As with all medical issues, one should consult with their doctor before deciding to use or not use electronic cigarettes.]

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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.


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Nutrient Agar

Q:

We need to heat up some nutrient agar for a science fair experiment in a microwave. I believe its 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.



 


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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 so as 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 were of the opinion that 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.




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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.


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Yummy Dough

Q: I came across a form of edible modeling dough (akin to Play-Doh) which is called “Yummy Dough”. It claims to be edible – with or without baking – so that parents don’t have to worry that their children might get sick from accidentally eating the dough. Is it kosher?

A: The manufacturer gave us a list of ingredients used in this product, and unfortunately the list include some ingredients that cannot be used without hashgachah. Therefore, since the company informed us that they are not kosher certified, we cannot recommend this product.

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Non-Kosher Environment

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 of 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 may be used as kosher. If one or more varieties are not kosher, then you should refrain from using the coffee maker.

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 non-kosher dishes. For example, coffee urns are sometimes used in hotel kitchens as “ladles” with which soup is moved from large kettles into individual bowls. There are limited situations where one can determine that neither of these concerns applies, and in those cases it would acceptable to drink the coffee; otherwise we cannot recommend it.

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Knife To Cut a Bagel

Q: Can I use the knife in my office’s kitchen to cut a bagel? I have no idea if the knife was previously used by one of the non-Jews to cut something non-kosher.

A: If the bagel is cold and the knife is clean, the bagel cut with that knife will remain kosher even if the knife had previously been used to cut hot non-kosher foods. Accordingly, one might think that they could cut their bagel with the knife. However, due to the possible mistakes that may occur, Rema (OC 451:1 and YD 121:5 & 7) cites a custom to not use non-kosher utensils in this manner on an ongoing basis. This means that if occasionally (i.e. less than once a month) you need to cut a bagel or other cold food with the clean non-kosher knife you’d be allowed to, but you shouldn’t make it a regular practice to do so.

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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 and 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.

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Pas Yisroel and Chalav Yisroel

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 never contains wheat, barley, spelt, or rye.  The only exception would be foods made with special gluten-free oats – such as gluten-free oat matzah for Pesach; those foods contain one of the five primary grains, and therefore potentially require pas Yisroel if they meet all of the other criteria.



 


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Shabbos & Yom Tov

Coffee Machine On Timer

Q: Is it possible to use a coffeemaker with a timer on Shabbos?  One of our wedding gifts was a coffeemaker with a build-in timer.  Obviously, this assumes that everything has been prepared Erev Shabbos and that the built-in timer brews the coffee Shabbos morning.

A: Rav Schwartz said that we should follow the ruling of Tzitz Eliezer 2:6 who prohibits this practice.

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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.

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Opening Containers

Q:

What is the cRc’s policy regarding opening food on Shabbos that are 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 more details on this question, you might want to read the article by Rabbi Jachter which can be found at  http://koltorah.org/ravj/FashioningOpeningstoUtensilsonShabbat.htm. For a final decision on this and similar questions we encourage you to speak to your local Orthodox Rabbi.



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 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.


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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 ??? ???? ???? ?????, 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 Schwartz’s opinion is that opening the door has such an indirect affect 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.

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Starbucks Via

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

A: We were in touch with the Rav HaMachshir who reports that it is pre-cooked sufficiently to permit its use on Shabbos. [As an aside, he doesn’t recommend the use of Via on Pesach but you may keep it in your house over Pesach.]

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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 Schwartz – 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 a number of reasons we encourage cRc certified caterers to use instant tea on Shabbos.]

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Tevilas Keilim

Lake Michigan

Q:

Is it okay to perform tevillas keilimin 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.


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