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In Melbourne Shabbat begins Fri 10 Apr 2020 05:41 PM and ends Sat 11 Apr 2020 06:40 PM

What could be wrong with ...

י"ב אלול ה' אלפים תשס"ח

Some people ask ‘what could be wrong with this food or that food’ or ‘what could be wrong with this drink or that drink’? I will touch on some of these questions.

Let’s start with processed ginger. There are quite a few additives and processing aids that may be used, some of which may not be listed on the label, and some of which may not be kosher. However, for the moment, I will concentrate on the beginning of the process – the cutting of the ginger roots. Ginger is a root similar to horseradish and has quite a sharp taste.

Thus, according to many Halachic rulings, it absorbs ‘taam assur’ (non-kosher flavour) from non-kosher ‘keilim’ (vessels and processing equipment) even when the processing is cold. At one stage in the procedure of processing the ginger, the ginger roots are cut with knives by hand – of course very labour intensive.

It is most important that the knives used for this cutting are kosher knives that are used exclusively for the ginger (or other kosher products). The kosher auditor must ensure that the knives are not brought from the workers’ homes, and that the knives are not used by the workers to cut up their lunch during their lunch-break! It is most important, also, that the knives are not washed anywhere else except in the ginger factory.

They are not to be washed up at home or in the staff-kitchen. Do I hear you say ‘this wouldn’t happen in our modern age?!’ Well, I kid you not – I audited a very large ginger processing export factory overseas. There was no control over the knives – most of the workers brought them from home. No-one stopped the workers from using them in the staff kitchen. They could have been washed up anywhere. I explained to the factory manager that apart from kosher requirements regarding ingredients, there is a kosher requirement that knives must be issued by the factory to the workers. No personal knives would be permitted. They would have to be washed up in the factory only. They would not be allowed to be taken to the staff kitchen. Now, the factory has a ‘knife register’ filled in every day, by a special supervisor. Each worker is issued with his/her knife with the initials engraved into it. In the morning there is a signature in the register when the worker receives the knife. At lunchtime the knives are deposited with the supervisor, and after lunch they are returned to the workers – another signature in the knife register. At afternoon tea – the same thing happens and another signature. At home-time, the knives are washed in the factory and are left with the supervisor.

Adherence to the knife register was a step in the right direction, to a kosher certification for the processed ginger.

Some may ask ‘what could be wrong with juices …?!’ There has been some publicity about this in recent years especially to do with added flavourings. Each ‘flavouring’ as listed on the label of the juice may contain many ingredients and processing aids and in many cases the flavouring may contain dozens of ingredients, some of which may not be kosher.

Furthermore, the word ‘flavouring’ may not even be listed in the ingredient panel on the label.

However, for the purposes of this article, I will concentrate on issues with regard to usage of juice equipment for other, non-kosher or milchig (dairy) drinks. Juices are processed and packed in factories that may make many different varieties of juice.

Some of these juices may be non-kosher white grape juice and nonkosher dark grape juice. Many juice processors prefer to make the varieties of juice in a sequence such that minimal cleaning between one juice and another is performed during the day.

Cleaning during the day is ‘down-time’ and stops production, hence it is undesirable!

The way around this is that each variety of juice must be preceded by a ‘compatible’ variety that would necessitate only minimal cleaning following it. One of the criteria used with regard to ‘compatible’ is colour. Thus the lighter colour juices are processed first in the day and the darker juices are processed later in the day. At the end of the day, there is a major wash down, usually including caustic solutions and steam-clean.

However it is the minimal cleaning in the middle of the day, that is of concern to kashrut. Generally dark grape juice is processed at the end of the day, as it is quite difficult to remove all the intense dark colouring. However the white grape juice may be one of the first products processed in the sequence. Following that, the ‘wash’ may consist of a quick flush of the equipment with warm or cold water. As the juices are heated to high temperature, such a flush of the equipment is not acceptable as kashering.

Furthermore, the dark grape juice may be second last in the day. The last product may be a dark juice that has particulate matter e.g. prune juice – thus necessitating a full wash with caustic detergents to remove the particulate matter. Hence, dark grape juice may be second-last, because only a minimal flush would be needed between dark grape juice and dark prune juice.

Then there is the case of a company that was making kosher lemon juice for years at a certain juice processing plant where all the issues outlined above, re grape juice, had been taken care of, by the kosher auditor and Kashrut supervisory authority.

Suddenly, the lemon juice production and bottling was shifted to another location - a non-kosher winery, where the cleaning was inadequate for kashering…

Such are some of the challenges in assessing kosher status of foods and drink.

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