Editor’s Note: The STAR-K Slurpee List is a compilation of flavors certified by an array of reliable kashrus certification agencies. Optimally, either the individual 7-11 store should be kosher certified or the consumer should check the kashrus of the syrup himself by checking the back of the machine. Many stores have been known to allow this. If neither option is available, this article will address the halachic basis for relying on The Slurpee List at any 7-11 store located in the United States.
One of the ways we mark the change of seasons is by eating and drinking the foods we associate with that particular time of year. The Rambam advises in Hilchos Deos1 that one adjust his menu with the seasons, eating warm spicy foods in the winter and cool, less seasoned ones during the warmer months: hot hearty soup (or microwaved leftover cholent!) on a cold winter night, watermelon at a summer BBQ and, of course, ice cold Slurpees on a hot humid Baltimore afternoon.
Given our weather challenges, it makes perfect sense that the concept of a Kosher Slurpee List originated here at the STAR-K Vaad HaKashrus of Baltimore. Yes, our very own Rabbi Tzvi Rosen, shlit”a, (editor in chief of this fine publication), published the very first Slurpee list in June 1998. This is a day still celebrated by thousands of sweltering Yidden, who find relief in the form of the ingenious frozen concoction known as the Slurpee.
What’s a Slurpee? For those of you who have led Slurpee-deprived childhoods, may I offer my heartfelt condolences – and an explanation. Slurpee is a registered trademark of the 7-11 Corporation, and what they call their “Slurpee” frozen beverage has the consistency of heavy wet snow (the type that’s really hard to shovel). It comes in dozens of flavors and basically consists of water, syrup and carbon dioxide. If you have never had one, you may be one of the last people on the planet not to have done so. Per an article in Newsday in July 2018, “According to 7-Eleven, 14 million Slurpees are sold each month, with the top flavors being Coca-Cola and Wild Cherry. Since the Slurpee was introduced in 1966, 7-Eleven says 7.2 billion have been sold – one for nearly every person on the planet.” (Well, everyone except for you, who have never had one. If you’re waiting until the end of this article to find out if you can buy your first Slurpee, brace for brainfreeze – You Can 😊!)
Typical Scenario: You’re driving a van full of little “angels” home from Yeshiva and you decide to reward (bribe)them for another successful carpool run. You pull into 7-11 and offer to buy everyone a Slurpee. The kids head over to the machines and start taking what they want: one gets Coke, another Cherry and, of course, somebody wants the new flavor of the month, i.e. ‘Kumquat Super Berry Blast (KSBB)’.2 Being a good kid, he asks you – the responsible all-knowing adult – if it’s kosher. Of course, you roll your eyes and try to convince him to get the Coke which you know is kosher (you think). He rolls his eyes (of course), and you start to sweat a little and look longingly at some of the adult beverages one aisle over. Another kid suggests calling STAR-K, and you sigh with relief as you hear the “angels” singing while you speed dial the 911 of the Kashrus world, 410-484-4110. A nice South African lady answers your call and, after you ask your question, you hear her scream out, “Slurpee emergency, Stat!!” The office LSP (Licensed Slurpee Professional) consults The Slurpee List. The nice lady tells you KSBB (Kumquat Super Berry Blast) is okay. Wonderful. Everyone gets what they want. Shalom al-Yisroel.
Behind the Scenes: We went behind the scenes with our local LSP and asked him some burning questions.
KK: On what is the Slurpee List based?
LSP: The Slurpee List is based on our research that the flavors we recommend are made with reliably kosher certified syrups. Each store simply hooks the syrup box up to the Slurpee machine, turns on the water and hits the “On” button. Kosher syrup = Kosher Slurpees.
KK: Aren’t you afraid that the non-Jewish owners of the 7-11 in question might substitute a non-kosher flavor?
LSP: In a perfect world, all 7-11 stores would be kosher certified. Short of that, it’s fairly easy for you to act as your own mashgiach (kosher supervisor) and check the syrups that are hooked up to the machines. If neither scenario is available, we can halachically address this based on Mareh Oomnaso,3 the concept that we can trust a non-Jew in certain circumstances based on their fear of losing their livelihood if they are caught cheating.
We asked Mike Gallagher MSP (Master Slurpee Professional and the 7-Eleven Sr. Manager for Cold Dispensed Proprietary Beverages) to explain the basis for this “fear”. “Slurpee is proprietary to 7-Eleven and, as such, only approved Frozen Carbonated Beverages can be chosen by franchisees to be used in stores. In the case of Slurpee, even franchise stores cannot deviate from the program. Instead, they must choose from a pre-approved list of flavors – called a “recommended assortment”. Every recommended product is Kosher Certified and due to our authorization, ordering and distribution processes, it is virtually impossible for a Slurpee machine to have a non-Kosher Slurpee. Contractually, Coca-Cola Classic, Cherry and Blue Raspberry are required in all stores and franchisees cannot use a substitute product for any of those three flavors. All three flavors are Kosher certified, with Cherry and Blue Raspberry now being made with real fruit juice.”
Additionally, each independently owned franchise is contractually required by 7-11 Corporate to label all products honestly. If they were offering an off-brand of cola instead of the “real thing”, they would need to display proper signage with the name of the brand of syrup being dispensed. “7-11 Corporate has field consultants, a district manager of sorts, local merchandisers, as well as regional managers (the Slurpee Police) who visit the stores in their areas to ensure they are adhering to their agreements.”
KK: We have heard that 7-11 does not clean out the machines between flavors, and that kids enjoy mixing the flavors. Is there a concern that a non-kosher flavor might have made the machine non-kosher, or that some actual non-kosher or dairy Slurpee was mixed in with another flavor?
LSP: The first thing to remember is that 99.9% of Slurpee flavors are kosher pareve. The Slurpee machine operates at 28°F, too cold for there to be any blios (absorption of tastes) from a possible non-kosher or dairy flavor. There are also no issues of kavush4 because of the high turnover of product. There are never flavors that sit in the machines for 24 hours.5
Regarding leftover non-kosher or dairy product remaining at the bottom of the barrel, we advise consumers that they can still purchase slurpees, based on a number sfekos (halachic doubts),6 and the laws of bitul (halachic nullification).
KK: So, the only thing we need to worry about when buying Slurpees are calories?
LSP: Well, there are kosher diet Slurpees available so you can skip the calories too. Stick with The Slurpee List and you can’t go wrong! Happy summer!7
A Brief History of the Slurpee
Like many great inventions, Slurpees were created by accident. In the late 1950s, Omar Knedlik of Kansas City owned a Dairy Queen restaurant. When his soda fountain went down, he improvised by putting some bottles of soda in the freezer to stay cool. However, when he popped the tops he found that they were a little frozen and slushy. Folks loved them and started requesting “those pops that were in a little bit longer”.
Realizing he had a surprise hit on his hands, Knedlik built a machine in the back room of his store. Using an automobile air conditioning unit, he managed to freeze the flavor syrup, water, and carbon dioxide creating his first frozen treat. He held a “Name the Product” contest and the winning entry was ICEE. With help from an engineering firm in Dallas, the ICEE machine was redesigned and sold to convenience stores throughout the early 1960s.
Things really took off in 1965 when 7-11 licensed the machine, renaming the drink to make it unique to their stores. The name “Slurpee” was coined by Bob Stanford, a 7-11 ad agency director, when he described the sound made while sipping the concoction through a straw.
- רמב”ם הל’ דעות, פ’ד, ה
- Fictitious Flavor
- רמ”א שו”ע יו”ד, קי”ד, ה
- The Gemara in Chulin 97b states the halacha that food that has soaked in a liquid experiences the same transfer of taste that we find when food is cooked. This idea is known as Kavush K’Mevushal. The Poskim say the food must be soaking for 24 hours for this to take place.
- I would be remiss if I did not thank fellow LSP, Rabbi Sholem Fishbane, President of the cRc (Chicago Rabbinical Council), for information that I gleaned from his article, “Slurpees Slurpees Everywhere, Nor Any Drop to Drink?”
- Considering that almost all Slurpee flavors are kosher pareve, it is more than likely that the Slurpee previously used in this machine was kosher pareve. Even if it was not, the small amount that mixes with your Slurpee is batul. Your intention is not to be mevatel, so it’s not considered bitul l’chatchila. You can also consider that the non-kosher or dairy element in the previous Slurpee was probably also batul in that Slurpee syrup.
- My thanks to MSP Mike Gallagher, Sr. Platform Manager, Cold Dispensed Proprietary Beverages 7-Eleven Inc., for his invaluable assistance in the preparation of this article.