Published Winter 2012
Updated Winter 2019
STAR-K has researched breakfast cereals for the past 30 years and has published Brachos lists and halachic guidelines for these products based on the psak of Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, shlita, STAR-K Rabbinic Administrator. It is with great pride that STAR-K has begun certification of the following three cereals distributed by Nestle in Israel: Cheerios, Fitness, and Crunch Cereals. The hashgacha is coordinated by our newly expanded Israel office. The products bear a STAR-K symbol and are pareve, bishul Yisroel, and yoshon. The brocha rishona on all three cereals is mezonos and the brocha achrona is al hamichya.
I. Chameishes Minei Dagan Cereals
Special halachic status has been given to products coming from chameishes minei dagan, the five special grains: wheat, spelt, barley, oats, and rye.1 When these grains are ground up, mixed with water and baked into cake, cookies, crackers and other pas haba’ah b’kisnin products the brocha is Mezonos and the brocha achrona is Al Hamichya. If one is koveya seudah (eats enough to constitute a meal), the brocha is Hamotzi and one must recite Birchas Hamazon.2 One of the definitions of pas haba’ah b’kisnin is that the dough is baked into a hardened crispy product. Products such as pretzels and Post Grape Nuts cereal3 are included in this category of pas haba’ah b’kisnin, and their brocha is Mezonos. The brocha on Cheerios4 and Wheaties cereals is also Mezonos, and the brocha achrona is Al Hamichya.
In the above cases, the chameishes minei dagan is broken down. However, if the grains remain whole and are simply roasted, they are no different from any other variety of produce which grows from the ground (e.g., corn), and the brocha is Hoadama.5 What this means is as follows: The brocha on unprocessed and slightly processed (e.g., toasted whole) wheat or oats is Hoadama. The brocha on fully processed wheat and oats (e.g., flour and water that are cooked or baked) is Mezonos.6
Wheat has four parts— endosperm, bran, germ and the inedible husk. Endosperm makes up the majority of the kernel and is the primary source of flour, bread and cake. If the whole wheat is puffed (i.e., the bran is not removed), the brocha remains Hoadama. An example of this is Kashi 7 Whole Grain Puffs,7 a cereal which includes chameishes minei dagan, with all its bran.
The process for most other puffed wheat is to first remove bran from the kernel through a process known as pearling. Some endosperm may be incidentally removed. The kernel is then placed into a pressurized heated chamber and steamed. The moisture spurts out of the kernel, thereby “popping” it.
There are different opinions8 as to which brocha is recited. Some opinions say this is processed enough to become Mezonos.9 Others are of the opinion that regular puffed wheat is not processed enough, and the brocha is Hoadama. In order for the brachos to be Mezonos, the product must be a “maaseh kedeira”, similar to a bowl of oatmeal in which the grains stick together.10
L’halacha, puffed wheat should ideally be eaten in the middle of a bread meal. Otherwise, Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l,11 says one can recite either Mezonos or Hoadama. Rav Moshe also says the brocha achrona on puffed wheat is Borei Nefashos.12 This halacha also applies to Kellogg’s Honey Smacks and Post Golden Crisp.13 The brocha rishona on wheat cakes is Mezonos and the bracha achrona is Al Hamichya, due to the process which makes it a maaseh kdeira.14
Wheat germ is the “embryo” of the kernel. It is heated to deactivate enzymes which would allow sprouting. It is generally eaten with other foods and would usually be tafel, secondary to the other ingredients in the product. If one eats wheat germ by itself the brocha is Hoadama since it is not processed enough and the heating is only applied to deactivate the enzymes, not to cook the germ.15 The brocha on bran is Shehakol.16 Therefore, the brocha on Kellogg’s All Bran cereal is Shehakol, and the brocha achrona is Borei Nefashos.17
II. Non-Chameishes Minei Dagan Cereals
The brocha on produce that grows from the ground is Borei P’ri Hoadama. However, if the produce is ground into flour (i.e., it is no longer recognizable) and is not from the five special types of grain or rice, the brocha becomes Shehakol.18 Therefore, the brocha on corn chips (made from corn flour) and cake made from potato starch is Shehakol. The brocha achrona on all non-chameishes minei dagan products is Borei Nefashos.
Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt’l, explains19 if the grain has not been ground into flour, but only popped (e.g., popcorn) or rolled into a flake, it retains its Hoadama status. Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and Frosted Flakes cereal are made from recognizable corn pieces (called grits) that are not ground into flour, so the brocha is Hoadama. However, Kemach Brand Corn Flakes is made from corn flour; so, its brocha is Shehakol. The same is true regarding Corn Chex; so, the brocha is Shehakol.20
If a corn flake cereal is not on the brochos list, how can one tell if the brocha is Hoadama or Shehakol? If the cereal panel lists corn flour, the corn has been ground and reformed into pellets; therefore the brocha is Shehakol (if wheat and oat flour are not present). If the cereal lists corn or milled corn, it may be a whole grain product and the brocha is Hoadama, or it may be ground and the brocha is Shehakol. To determine the brocha, one must look carefully at various flakes. If they have jagged edges and the surface of the flake is bumpy, it comes from a grit21 and the brocha is Hoadama. If the corn flakes are relatively smooth (very small bumps), and the edges are smoother, the corn flakes are from a more uniform pellet (made from corn flour) and the brocha is Shehakol. Kellogg’s Corn Pops is manufactured differently in various facilities worldwide. In the United States, the corn is not ground into flour, and corn pieces are used; therefore, the brocha is Hoadama.
Rice is unique, as its brocha is Mezonos and its brocha achrona is Borei Nefashos.22 This includes processed rice products, such as Kellogg’s Rice Krispies and Post Fruity Pebbles. It also includes products whose primary ingredient is rice flour.
III. Ikkur V’Tafel—Mixtures of Primary and Secondary Ingredients
In general, when there is a mixture of foods with different brochos, one determines the main purpose for eating this food and recites the brocha of that ingredient. This ingredient is known as the ikkur. For example, if one eats a salad with dressing only a Hoadama is recited.
Similarly, if the main ingredient of a cereal is oat or wheat flour the brocha is Mezonos, and the other ingredients are tafel. For example, the brocha on Cheerios, where the oats are the primary ingredient (e.g., Original, Frosted & Honey Nut), is Mezonos. Furthermore, chameishes minei dagan have a special status. Even if a non-chameishes minei dagan ingredient (e.g., corn flour) is the first ingredient,23 and chameishes minei dagan (e.g., oat flour) is a “secondary” ingredient, under certain conditions the chameishes minei dagan is still considered the ikkur and the brocha is Mezonos. This is true even though the chameishes minei dagan is not the ingredient with the highest percentage.
The guidelines are as follows: If the chameishes minei dagan Mezonos ingredient is added l’taam, as an integral part of the cereal or for its own flavor, even though it is second or third in the ingredient list, the brocha is Mezonos.24 Examples of this include Kellogg’s Apple Jacks and Froot Loops. Similarly, the brocha on Raisin Bran cereal is Mezonos, as the endosperm in the flakes is the ikkur ingredient.
However, if the chameishes minei dagan is only l’davek — a binding agent for texture or consistency, or a flavoring component to enhance the primary corn ingredient, the brocha is Shehakol. An example of this is Quaker Cap’n Crunch cereal. In this corn cereal, the oat flour is added only as a binding agent.25
This halacha is very relevant to various cereals, as several list corn flour as a first ingredient and chameishes minei dagan, such as oat flour and wheat flour, as a second or third ingredient. Unfortunately, there is no way to tell from the label if the oat or wheat flour is is added l’taam or l’davek.26 When there is doubt as to whether the oat flour listed as a secondary ingredient is l’taam or l’davek, contact the kashrus certification agency. If this is not possible, one should recite Shehakol and Borei Nefashos.27
Kellogg’s Crispix is processed so that each piece is approximately half rice and half corn. Rav Moshe Heinemann, shlita, visited the Kellogg’s plant and conducted a thorough review of all the raw materials and production areas. Since it has no ikkur or tafel and no chameishes minei dagan component, two brochos are required. When eating this cereal, one Crispix should be split; Mezonos is recited and then one eats from the darker rice side, then Hoadama is recited on the lighter corn half and is eaten.28 Alternatively recite a Mezonos and Hoadama on other items.
Under normal circumstances, when eating cereal with milk the cereal is the ikkur and the milk is the tafel; only one brocha is recited. This is true, even if one finishes the cereal and there is a little leftover milk eaten alone – no brocha is recited on the milk.29 The same halacha applies when one eats cereal with raisins, bananas or strawberries. Under normal circumstances, a brocha is recited only on the cereal and not the fruit pieces since they are tafel.30
IV. Brocha Achrona
If Shehakol or Hoadama should be recited on a cereal, the brocha achrona is Borei Nefashos. If Mezonos should be recited, the brocha achrona is Al Hamichya (except for rice cereals, where the brocha achrona is Borei Nefashos).31 To recite any brocha achrona, one must eat a k’zayis (1.27 fl. oz., 38 ml, the approximate volume of a golf ball) of cereal in the amount of time known as k’dei achilas pras ideally within a two minute span, b’dieved within a four minute span.32 Under certain circumstances, one may calculate the entire amount of cereal eaten when deciding the brocha achrona. If one eats a k’zayis of a chameishes minei dagan Mezonos cereal, the brocha achrona may be Al Hamichya even though the actual wheat or oat content consumed is less than a k’zayis.33 This is true if the non-chamaishes minei dagan ingredients (e.g., sugar) are added to enhance the flavor of the oat and/or wheat flour (i.e., they are “tavlin” enhancers) and they are combined into one entity.34
However, in the following cases, the “other” ingredients are not counted as part of the k’zayis and one would need a k’zayis of chaimeishes minei dagan to recite an Al Hamichya:35 1) If one consumes a chameishes minei dagan cereal that contains pieces upon which Mezonos is recited and pieces upon which a different brocha is recited (when eaten without the chameishes minei dagan), one must eat a k’zayis of the Mezonos pieces to recite Al Hamichya. The other pieces do not count towards Al Hamichya. However, half kzayis of chameishes minei dagan plus half kzayis of non chameishes minei dagan would add up to a Borei Nefashos.36 This is true even though the other pieces are tafel to the chameishes minei dagan and only Mezonos is recited. 2) Corn flour or other flours added for their own nutritional value, not as a “tavlin” to flavor the oat flour, are not counted as part of the k’zayis for al hamichya purposes.37
Undoubtedly, as companies continue to re-formulate cereals for better taste and more nutrition, one should not be surprised to discover that the brocha on one’s favorite cereal has changed. In the z’chus of beginning the day with reciting the correct brochos on cereals, may Klal Yisroel be zoche to much brocha v’hatzlacha bestowed upon us from Shamayim.
Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim (O.C.) 208:4. The Shulchan Aruch says such products should ideally be eaten during a bread meal since there is a safek (doubt) as to which brocha achrona is recited. L’maaseh, if one eats the grain, the brocha achrona is Borei Nefashos.
Rav Heinemann, shlit”a, explains an additional reason. This product is now a “maaseh kedeira” because it has been processed into a form that is normally eaten. According to this svara, the brocha rishona is Mezonos and the brocha achrona is Al Hamichya. Dayan Krausz, author of Mikor Habrucha, told this author the same svara.
Sefer V’zos Habrocha Chap. 12 as further explained in his Birur Halacha Siman 27:4:4 in the name of Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l. Since these grains are simply popped and do not stick together, the brocha is Hoadama. The brocha achrona is a safek and, therefore, the product should l’chatchila be eaten during a bread meal. If it is not eaten during a bread meal, the brocha achrona is Borei Nefashos.
Igros Moshe O.C. 4:45.
It should be noted that some brands of granola cereals have similar halachic issues. Like puffed wheat, they are chameishes minei dagan products that are “partially processed” (i.e., heated but not broken down into flour). The same issues apply regarding whether or not they have been processed enough to become Mezonos. One would have to determine the exact process of each brand to determine which brochos rishona and achrona are recited. Rav Heinemann is of the opinion that General Mills Nature Valley Granola Bars are processed enough to make their brocha rishona a Mezonos. If one eats a minimum of between 1.5-2 bars (packages contain 2 bars) in 4 minutes, then the brocha achrona is Borai Nefashos, as there is less than a k’zayis of chameishes minei dagan; in total, there is a k’zayis (half chameishes minei dagan and half non-chameishes minei dagan). No brocha acharona is required if one eats one bar of this brand, as even one complete bar is less than a k’zayis.
This product also contains a type of bran which contains endosperm. Nonetheless, the endosperm is tafel to the bran. However, Raisin Bran and Fiber One cereals consist of higher amounts of endosperm mixed with the bran product; so, the brocha is Mezonos.
According to the information provided, the “corn” in Corn Chex is different than the corn in Crispix cereal (despite the fact that the finished product looks similar). In Corn Chex, the corn used is no longer nikker (noticeable as corn), and in Crispix it is still nikker; hence, the difference in brocha.
Sefer Pischei Halacha Hilchos Brachos Chap. 7 Footnote 32 states that according to the Mogen Avraham 208:7, chameishes minei dagan which is Hoadama (e.g., that was puffed without removing the bran) is also considered an ikkur even if it is not the first ingredient listed (as long as it is added l’taam). For a discussion of this topic, see the entire footnote in Sefer Pischei Halacha. Although the brocha on rice is Mezonos, it is not an ikkur if it is not the primary ingredient.
This is based on our review of the percentages and conversation with the company. The fact that the box states “oat” cereal is irrelevant, as this seems to be for marketing purposes and not because it is added l’taam.
For example, if one ate exactly a k’zayis of Cheerios, the “minhag ha’olam” is to recite Al Hamichya because the oat flour, sugar, and salt are all combined into each of the Cheerios. These non-chamaishes minei dagan ingredients are “tavlin” to the oats. For a further discussion, see Maamar Mordechai O.C. 208:15.
For example, if one ate exactly a k’zayis of Post Great Grains Cranberry Almond Crunch, one recites Mezonos but cannot recite Al Hamichya afterwards. Since the Mezonos pieces do not add up to a k’zayis, and the cranberries and almonds are not mitztaref (for al hamichya) to the wheat flakes, Borei Nefashos is recited (see Mishnah Brura 210:1). If one ate exactly a k’zayis of Raisin Bran (i.e., chameishes minei dagan flakes and shivas haminim raisins), there is a question amongst the poskim whether Borei Nefashos or may’ain shalosh is recited. For an explanation of this halacha, see Piskei Teshuvos 210:6. Of course, if one ate a k’zayis of Mezonos flakes of Raisin Bran, Al Hamichya is recited.