Kosher Consumer Misconsumptions

Rabbi Tzvi Rosen, Star-K Kashrus Administrator; Editor, Kashrus Kurrents

The Star-K Hotline is constantly abuzz with  kashrus  inquiries.  Over 13,100 consumer calls were logged during the week before   Pesach  5772.  Questions ranged from product information to complex kitchen  shailos , from reliable kosher airline caterers to wines whose kosher certification symbols are so small you need a high powered magnifying glass to read the  rav hamachshir ’s name.

Even with all the available information, consumers still  get confused  or make forgone conclusions that could result in incorrect assumptions with incorrect  halachic  consequences.  The following examples of kosher consumer misconceptions are based on real Kosher Hotline inquiries.  Hopefully, this article will help clarify some common errors.

  1. Misconception 1 – Putting an oven into Sabbath Mode allows one to cook on Shabbos .

Chas V’shalom !  The  Shabbos  mode does not allow one to cook on  Shabbos .  The  Shabbos mode makes a modern oven  halachically  compliant so that it may be used on  Shabbos  and Yom Tov .  The purpose of the  Shabbos  Mode was to address new technological and computerized features that have created issues regarding oven use on  Shabbos  and  Yom Tov .  These features include the following:  12 hour shut off; ringing and chiming at the end of the time bake cycle; inability to disable the oven light; the digital displays rendering the modern-day oven impossible to use on  Shabbos , or to adjust the temperature for cooking on  Yom Tov .  The  Shabbos  Mode is an internal program that addresses and bypasses these issues, so that the oven can be used on  Shabbos  or  Yom Tov .  All laws of cooking and rewarming – bishul shehiya ,  and  chazara  – still apply to the oven equipped with a  Shabbos  mode.  Please note:  Blanking and clearing of the control panel that allows for adjustment of the oven temperature on  Yom Tov   does NOT apply to  Shabbos  use.

  1. Misconception 2 – Today, the kosher wine section in the liquor store carries Israeli wines produced from grapes grown in the  shmitta  year bearing the following claim, “ Otzar Bais Din  wine – after the  shaas habiur .”  The wine appears to have reliable certification.  I should have no problem drinking this wine.

Proceed with caution.  There are many factors that need to be clarified:

  1. Can one purchase  shmitta  wine outside  Eretz Yisroe l , s ince the wine is vested with kedushas shiviis , the sanctity of the Sabbatical year?
  2. Regardless of whether or not the wine can be purchased after the grape/wine growing season has passed, and grapes are no longer found in the field, a  halachic  process has to take place prior to one’s partaking of the grapes.  One has to take  shmitta grapes/wine,1 place them in a public domain and publicly declare in the presence of three people that these grapes are  hefker , ownerless.  This procedure of rescinding ownership of the grapes/wine, after the grapes are  no longer found in the fields, is “commonly” referred to as being  mafkir  the  peiros l’aachar shaas habiur .  The nullifier, or anyone else, can claim or reclaim ownership of the grapes/wine, which would then be available for drinking.

However, the wine is still vested with  kedushas sheviis  and cannot be used for any non-sanctified purpose, such as extinguishing a  Havdala  candle, pouring out the remaining  Kiddush wine , or pouring out the wine for the ten  makos  at the  Pesach seder .  The wine or produce has to be completely consumed.
Rabbi Moshe Heinemann,  shlita , Rabbinic Administrator of Star-K, is of the opinion that if one does not know if the  biur  procedure was performed properly, one would first have to rescind ownership of the wine in front of three people in a public domain.  He would then be  mafkir  the wine, reclaim it and drink the wine  b’kedushas sheviis .

  1. Misconception 3 – Cold food may be placed directly in a warming drawer on Shabbos , without a  blech , regardless of the temperature of the warming drawer because it only keeps the food warm. 

Not true.  Since a warming  drawer can warm food beyond  yad soledes bo  (120oF), which constitutes  halachic  cooking, it would be forbidden to use the warming drawer on  Shabbos .  This is due to the fact that a warming drawer is  halachically  considered to be the same as an oven because it is thermostatically controlled. However, if the warming drawer could only warm the food below  yad soledes bo  (120oF), it would be permitted for  Shabbos  use.

  1. Misconception 4 – Products labeled DE may be eaten only on dairy utensils, and products labeled ME may be eaten only on meat utensils. 

This is an incorrect assumption.  DE means that a  pareve  product was cooked using clean dairy equipment, and ME means that the  pareve  product was cooked using clean meat equipment.   Since the product was cooked in a gender specific utensil, it cannot be eaten with the other gender; a DE product cannot be eaten with meat, and a ME product cannot be eaten with a dairy product.  However, the restriction regarding the use of the other gender dishes or utensils only applies to using it while they are hot.  Therefore, Pareve  ices stating that they are DE may be scooped into meat dessert bowls and vice versa, and should not be washed together with the regular dirty meat dishes in hot water; however, spaghetti sauce stating that it is ME cannot be mixed with cheese.

  1.  Misconception 5 – Frozen fruits or vegetables bearing kosher certification are pre-checked for  toloyim  and are halachically insect-free). 

This is not necessarily so.  Some certifications certify that the product does not require any further checking; other organizations may not address the issue, or their standards may be such that the product does not require inspection.  This is a challenging problem for the kosher consumer, because different organizations maintain different standards and some certifications do not address the issue entirely.

  1. Misconception 6 – An allergy disclaimer stating that the product is made in a facility or on equipment that is used for dairy products automatically makes the pareve  product  milchig -dairy.

False.  Due to the severity of allergies – dairy, nut, gluten – companies are very careful to make disclosures to avoid any possible lawsuits.  A company can pack a dry dairy chocolate covered peanut and have a complete wipe down after the product is packed; the label will still bear the disclaimer, “Produced in a facility that manufactures milk products.”  When a product states that it is  pareve , and the disclaimer appears, the equipment is 100%  pareve  and there is no dairy contamination or intermingling with the  pareve  product.

  1. Misconception 7- All dairy products sold or produced in Israel are  Cholov Yisroel

This is a very important misconception, because the Israeli Chief Rabbinate will permit the use of non- cholov Yisroel  powdered milk to be used as an ingredient.  The product will state “ avkat cholov nochri ” – that non- cholov Yisroel  powdered milk is a permissible dairy  ingredient.  This is based on the  heter  of  Rav  Tzvi Pesach Frank  zt”l , former  Rav  of  Yerushalayim , who maintained that the prohibition of  cholov akum  only applies to fluid milk and not powdered milk.  This is not accepted as a  cholov Yisroel  ingredient for those who are very strict adherents.   But those who accept the  heter  of  Rav  Tzvi Pesach Frank  zt”l  will consume “ avkat cholov nochri. ”   Bottom line:  Read the labels carefully.

  1. Misconception 8 – Stickers on kosher certified products make the product more kosher.

Depends.  Sometimes a company makes a special production using alternative ingredients, leaving out ingredients, or making a product  bishul Yisroel , and does not want to pay for special packaging.  A sticker is a far more inexpensive special labeling method.  Sometimes, the sticker is just a ploy to lead the consumer to believe that it is a special production; at times, a sticker is put on irrespective of the kosher certification on the product.   Consumers should be alerted to the fact that at times, manufacturers will overwrap a KFP product using the same year-round overwrap packaging.  This issue has been dealt with at length in a  Kashrus Kurrents  article entitled  Sticker Shock.   Caveat emptor .

As you can see, in the ever changing world of kosher food certification, an educated kosher consumer is the best method to ensure that everything is  kosher v’yosher .

1 Or any other  shmitta  produce