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In Melbourne Shabbat begins Fri 15 Dec 2017 08:19 PM and ends Sat 16 Dec 2017 09:20 PM
כ"ג אדר א' ה' אלפים תשס"ח
Like most aspects of human endeavour, the world of Kashrut is replete with so-called Kosher myths. Most of these involve the opening statement "but what could be wrong with".
An area in which Australian Kosher consumers express confusion (and arrive at incorrect conclusions) is the permissibility of juices, cordials and soft drinks (for simplicity termed JCS).
Most juices are made from concentrates - fruit juices that have had water removed to make transport easier (shipping water around the world is expensive and unnecessary). These are reconstituted with water and mixed with flavours, acids (to stabilise the juice), vitamins and sometimes sweeteners and preservatives. The mix is then pasteurised (around 90°C for normal use and around 140°C for UHT) and bottled.
Cordials are made in a similar manner with a lower juice content and higher flavour and sweetener content.
Soft drinks are usually entirely made of water, carbon dioxide (a carbon footprint!) and flavour. Even some drinks, marketed as healthy, will have a very small amount of juice. The production of cordials and soft drinks is usually at room temperature or below.
In Melbourne, the Rabbanim have always paskened that JCS need to be checked and approved before use. This stance is in line with normative Kashut worldwide. The Sydney equivalent merely require consumers to check for the presence of grape juice, carmine (colour 102) and anthocyanines (colour 163). This is based on a kula (leniency), originating in London, that allow JCS even if they contain suspect ingredients or processing on the assumption that the problematic ingredients would be batul (rendered insignificant). This is not accepted by the major authorities outside the United Kingdom.
The Sydney Rabbinate is justifiably concerned that being strict would cause those in their community who were weak in their observance of Kashrut to abandon it totally. Halachically, such a decision may be made for the inhabitants of a city, where Rabbis require.
The division in attitude came to a head in Australia when Kosher Australia removed Berri products owing to the lack of access to inspection in recent years.
So, must Kosher Australia and international Kashrut authorities be concerned?
The number one issue across the board is the flavours used. A typical flavour may consist of anywhere between three and sixty chemical components, many of which contribute to the flavour and are potentially derived from non-Kosher sources. As they contribute to the flavour, there is general agreement that they cannot be considered insignificant even in a bedieved (post factum) situation.
The second concern is that often juice companies process grape juice on the same lines. As the production is under heat, going from non-Kosher to Kosher requires kashering of the equipment that needs to take place at close to 100°C with boiling water. A normal cleaning-in-process is usually lower than the pasteurisation temperature.
Two years ago we came across an unusual situation of dairy orange juice being produced on the same line as the processing of milk without sufficient cleaning (from a Kosher perspective).
Another concern is the increasing use of juice concentrates from Israel. Juice is a commodity and with a strong dollar, Israeli juice becomes attractive (particularly with some exotics). When industrial Israeli juices are sold they are usually not acceptable as the Israeli company need not dump a significant percentage of their product for terumah and ma'aser for export. And shemittah presents even greater complexity.
Israeli concentrates have forced the removal of a range of food service juices and a number of retail cordials.
Due to vitamin fortification, some fruit drinks have lactic acid (a pareve ingredient derived from plants, despite the dairy sounding name), whey protein, and vitamin D3 derived usually from lanolin, among other challenging ingredients.
These are in addition to the concerns of grape juice as "natural" sweetener, carmine (a red colour derived from insects) and other natural colours.
Overseas authorities relying on the JCS leniency contacted by Kosher Australia, acknowledge that this is due to the lack of available, properly investigated products & not desirable where such products exist.
Melbournians, when going interstate, need to understand that the same JCS considered unacceptable in Melbourne are the same products available in Sydney, where Sydneysiders have been given a specific exemption by their Rabbinate.
Of course, in Australia, Kosher-approved JCS are widely available across the country. Golden Circle, the second largest juice company in the country and Nippys, a leader in South Australia, are two companies that have the majority of their ranges approved or certified. Also, much of the Coca Cola Amatil and Schweppes soft drink ranges are approved (some soon to be certified).
While the current exclusion by NSW applies only to Sydneysiders, it has the potential to wreak havoc for Kosher consumers Australia-wide. There is ample evidence that having an "open slather" JCS policy is a disincentive for companies to gain kosher approval, when the Rabbi says it's all okay!