Diet Coke on Pesach (segue)

In a previous article, I was critical of the wording and approach to this issue by Kosher Australia. In particular, they announced that people should not buy these diet drinks as they were Kitniyos. I argued that they were likely Kitniyos Shenishtane and therefore a matter of disagreement among Poskim and Kashrus Agencies and that people should ask their local orthodox rabbi (who would presumably liaise with Kashrus Authorities and advise their congregant as to the Halacha). I did not feel that Kosher Australia should make a certain pronouncement on the matter.

It is true that the Diet products have a Hechsher of the Rabbanut. It is equally true that some will rely on such a Hechsher and some will not. Some may rely on it during the year, but not on Pesach. Others may never rely on it. Some will only rely on a specific Rabbanut Hechsher: e.g. Yerushalayim.

I have also learned that R’ Lande has issues with one variety of Diet Coke preparation even during the year (let alone Pesach). It seems then that those who follow R’ Lande’s hashgacha need to investigate this fully with his office, depending on where in the world they find themselves wishing to drink Diet Coke and the like.

I asked the OU about the Israeli Diet Coke which doesn’t have a Mehadrin Hechsher, and only bears a Rabbanut Hechsher. The reply I received from the OU stated:

“Diet Coke from Israel is certified by OU. However, the OU symbol is not used on Coke products in Israel. One of the issues involved is kitniyos shenishtane”

In other words, like other Mehadrin standards, the OU does have some issues with this production which prevented them placing their Mehadrin OU stamp, however, the product is certified for use (clearly for those who do not necessarily seek Mehadrin).

Unsurprisingly, my attempts at eliciting further details failed. The OU are not about to provide me with details of changes that ought to take place before they put an OU on the product. I understand that  the OU have instigated some changes in USA production and therefore are able to place their imprimatur on that production line. Whether they rely on Bitul for Kitniyos Shenishtane when they have their OU imprimatur, I do not know.

So, in summary, if I was a Kosher Supplier of groceries in Melbourne, I’d either

  • approach the OU to see if they are able to instigate a process whereby the Israeli product gets the OU stamp, or
  • import the diet drinks from the USA with the OU stamp

Clearly the former is better, as we support Israel and Israeli goods.

The other contentious issue is that of Quinoa. As I mentioned, there was a finding by a respected Kashrus Agency that some Quinoa was proximate to Chametz during production. This is a concern. I notice that Eden has a Quinoa that is certified year-round by the OK. If I was a Jewish greengrocer, I’d be approaching the OK to see if they can ensure that Eden Quinoa is certified as OK Kosher for Pesach as well and stamp it as such. That way, those who use Quinoa because it is not Kitniyos, will be confident and free to do so.

Disclaimer: I must stress again, that all my comments on Halachic topics should be deemed pitputim b’almo. In other words, they are not L’Halacha, and not L’Maaseh. Discuss the matter with your local orthodox Rabbi.

Diet Drinks: Kitniyos that have undergone a process of change

[Disclaimer: everything I write is not להלכה and not למעשה. In this case, my knowledge of food science is also, at best, cursory. Do discuss this issue with your Rabbi and don’t be influenced in practice by my pitputim]

In Halacha, legumes which have been traditionally not used over Pesach for a number of well-known reasons, are forbidden. This is the Ashkenazi prohibition of Kitniyos. Some, like Rabbi David Bar Chaim (who I remember as David Mandel when he was in Melbourne many moons ago, and who went to study at BMT/Hakotel at around the same time that I went to KBY 🙂 asserts that it’s not a blanket Ashkenazi prohibition, but rather one that is an Ashkenazi prohibition outside of Israel. His view is that Minhag Eretz Yisrael was never to adopt the minhag not to eat Kitniyos. I would assume, that Rabbi Bar Chaim, should he find himself in Chutz La’aretz over Pesach, would adopt the Minhag of Ashkenazim in Chutz La’aretz and not partake of Kitniyos. My assumption may not be true, of course, as he would appear to have a renaissance-style agenda for reinstating what he sees as Minhag Eretz Yisrael, even prior to Mashiach coming, rejecting any imported Minhagim from those who have made Aliya over the last 3-400 years.

What is the הלכה if Kitniyos is an admixture of a food stuff? Do we assume that it is Batel B’Rov, nullified by the majority of the ingredients which are fine, and bought before Pesach? This is a disagreement amongst the Poskim, however, where there is any semblance of a medical need, given that the issue of mixtures isn’t black and white, Poskim are certainly lenient across the board.

What about the derivatives of Kitniyos? This is known as מי קטניות? Famously, Rav Kook ז’ל declared that they were completely acceptable, because Ashkenazim never had a Minhag not to consume this, and the process negated all the issues that Kitniyos came to protect in the first place. Rav Kook’s permissive ruling is halachically sound, however, Charedim rejected it and as such it has become a default “not to rely on this Hetter”. Having said that, I well recall that even in Melbourne, as the outsiders “infiltrated” our midst, certain Kitniyos or questionably Kitniyos derived oils (מי קטניות) were definitely used by almost everyone. Peanut oil is a good example. It is highly unlikely (as per R’ Moshe ז’ל) that peanuts were ever included in the ban on Kitniyos. If we couple that doubt together with the fact that we aren’t dealing with peanuts per se, but rather a product derived from peanuts, and prepared before Pesach with a Hechsher, it can cogently be argued that there should be absolutely no problem. However, we have a long-standing custom to choose something with zero doubt over Pesach: that is, we are Machmir. Being Machmir (stringent) seems to be a long-standing Minhag. In a similar way, during Aseres Yemei T’Shuva we have a custom to be Machmir on Pas Palter and perhaps Chalav Stam even though we aren’t Machmir a whole year around.

Enter the Diet Drink. Our society loves their Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi, Diet Prigat etc. When you pick up a bottle of these at your local Kosher greengrocer, you will see that the Coke has at least one “Charedi” Hashgacha, such as from the Chug Chasam Sofer, or Rav Lande from B’nei Brak. Yet, the diet version has a Hashgacha from the Rabanut. What gives? Artificial sweeteners are often derived from Kitniyos. They are another level away from מי קטניות. Why? Because they have been chemically altered/processed. This is known as קטניות שנשתנו, Kitniyos that have undergone a process (chemical) change/development. Again, the Poskim are divided on this issue. Unlike Kitniyos derived oils, however, on this issue even Charedi Poskim stand on either side of the debate. One cannot just dismiss it because it emanated from the “Zionist” Rav Kook (did you know, by the way, that Rav Kook refused to join a religious zionist political party). On this issue, we have very respected Kashrus authorities who permit it: such as Rav Belski (senior Posek of the OU and a Charedi Rosh Yeshiva) and Rav Gedalya Dov Schwartz of cRc—not to be confused with the anti-zionist CRC—(who I was fortunate to meet and speak with when he came for a wedding I played at in Melbourne) and others. Rav Schwartz is well-balanced and respected by all. The model of co-operation in Chicago is an icon for the rest of the world.

With this in mind, I’d like to quibble with the wording that was sent out by our own Kosher Australia recently. Yankel Wajsbort, who does a fantastic job, and is partly responsible for bringing our lists to the modern world of communication wrote:

A reminder that all the Diet drinks (Coke, Pepsi, Prigat) available in Australia use kitniyos sweeteners (a check of the label will show that the regular Kosher certification does not cover Pesach).

I have three problems with this statement, especially in the context of the later comments about Hommous and Techina products being Kitniyos for Ashkenazim.

  1. This is not, in the main, Kitniyos. Rather it is Kitniyos that has undergone a process change, as above.
  2. It is not true that the label will show that the “regular” certification doesn’t cover Pesach. There is a different certifying body that approves of Diet drinks, as above. At least, that is true for Prigat. I haven’t looked at Coke.
  3. Kosher Australia has three ways of issuing a pronouncement on the issue of Kitniyos that has undergone change: It either takes its own stand on the issue, which I assume would be accompanied by a formal Tshuva, or it decides to follow one group of opinions on the matter (the strict one) given that it is a body that needs to certify for a range of groups across Melbourne, or it lists the two sides of the coin and suggests that people check with their local orthodox Rabbi (LOR).

My preference, similar to what I wrote about Quinoa, is that Kosher Australia briefly list the major Kashrus organisations on both sides of this halachic divide, and then suggest that one should consult with their LOR. The approach taken in the communication above is just too black and white for my tastes (sic).

Kosher Australia acknowledged that the wording could have been better, and their consistent policy is to follow R’ Lande on these matters. They prefer, apparently,  not to get into the intricacies, as above, as this may confuse. Fair enough.

Disclaimer: I don’t use Diet drinks on Pesach, only because I’m somewhat of a Machmir over Pesach, and if I ever want to be lenient, my wife steps in and puts a halt to it 🙂

PS. I discovered that Georgio Armani products seems also not to have Chametzdik alcohol in their liquid perfumes/after shaves. I saw this on one of the major hechsher websites. Anyone checked on it? Seems that the American one is fine. Not sure if Armani produce it anywhere else and/or differently.

PPS. Does anyone know why Chabadniks who avoid all processed food on Pesach, seem to rely on Hechsherim for wine these days (but not, for example, Vodka)

Quinoa revisited

Commendably, Kosher Australia has revised its earlier information and now tells us:

Subsequent to the printing of the 2011 KAPG, we noted that both the OU and the Star-K have altered their respective positions regarding the acceptability of quinoa. The OU now recommend consulting with one’s Rav and the Star-K now require formal Pesach supervision due to the concern of likely contamination from chometz. However, the London Beth Din and the Eidah Charedis, among others, maintain that quinoa is kitniyos. Based on information from the OK, those people who use quinoa on Pesach may purchase Eden brand quinoa which we have confirmed is free of cross-contamination with Chometz.

This is good. The Eidah Charedis’ stance isn’t surprising. For them, חדש אסור מן התורה and so there is no need to even find out what Quinoa is.

I still take issue with Kosher Australia’s wording in respect of the Star K position. The Star K did not state that Quinoa is likely to be contaminated by Chametz! What they did say, was that it was possible that Quinoa came into contact with Chametz. That’s true. Guess what, though, that applies to just about everything we buy because of the nature of food lines and cross contamination. In particular, we also get Potato flour with a Hechsher! The salient point is that the Star K do NOT consider Quinoa to be Chametz. Here is what they do say:

Tired of potatoes, potatoes, potatoes for Pesach? Try quinoa (“Keen-Wa”), a sesame-seed-sized kernel first brought to the United States from Chile nineteen years ago, according to Rebecca Theurer Wood. Quinoa has been cultivated in the Andes Mountains for thousands of years, growing three to six feet tall despite high altitudes, intense heat, freezing temperatures, and as little as four inches of annual rainfall. Peru and Bolivia maintain seed banks with 1,800 types of quinoa.

Quinoa was determined to be Kosher L’Pesach. It is not related to the chameishes minei dagan-five types of grain products, nor to millet or rice. Quinoa is a member of the “goose foot” family, which includes sugar beets and beet root. The Star-K tested quinoa to see if it would rise. The result was as Chazal termed, sirchon; the quinoa decayed – it did not rise. However, recent investigations have found that there is a possibility that Quinoa grows in proximity to certain grains and processed in facilities that compromise Quinoa kosher for Passover status. Therefore, Quinoa should only be accepted with reliable Kosher for Passover supervision

The Psak from the Star K mirrors the Psak from my wife 🙂 Although, I had noted, as per the advice from OK, that Eden Quinoa has no Chashash of Chametz because it is an organic company that has nothing to do with wheat as per the OK checking including the milling.

The bottom line is that it’s best to either have a Hechsher on any ground Quinoa. Then again, some of you also boil your sugar 🙂

For Chabad I’d say no Rebbe ever found grains in their Quinoa, but since none except for perhaps the last Rebbe  z’l, was exposed to Quinoa you’d better not use it 🙂 I wonder what Chabad would say about someone who washed Quinoa before Pesach and checked there was no inadvertent grain therein?

R’ Moshe Feinstein ז’ל unlike the Edah Charedis, held that we do not create new types of Kitniyos.

I hasten to add that in my opinion, which is not להלכה nor למעשה (ask your Rabbi), it is desirable to use (certified or at least Eden) Quinoa for babies and little children who have a hard time eating on Pesach, let alone the unfortunate ones who are gluten intolerant and elderly people who have issues with their digestion and stomach.

Regards from Kuala Lumpur where I haven’t seen any Quinoa as yet 🙂

Are we being misled by Kashrus Authorities-Quinoa revisited

Quinoa (pronounced Kin-wa). It’s not a grain; it is related to spinach. Its ברכה is האדמה. Its seeds may or may not be ground in the same way as Potatoes maybe ground and everyone eats potatoes (despite the חיי אדם trying to make them אסור on פסח because of Kitniyos). There are, of course, others, who assert that the גזרה of Kitniyos on Pesach doesn’t apply in Israel, but we won’t go there in this article. Let’s just look at Kosher Australia.

Quinoa

Recently, a letter was circulated by Kosher Australia, explaining the reasons for food items becoming non kosher “suddenly” together with an explanation denying a sudden lurch to “the right.” It was a well written letter and I am a supporter of Kosher Australia aligning their standards with the OU. The OU, in my opinion, is the premier and most trusted Kashrus Authority in the world. Okay, I’m  biased because I ask (major) questions to Rav Schachter, who happens to be one of the two Poskim for the OU.

On the matter of Quinoa on Pesach, Kosher Australia advised us that it was following the practice of the OU and that as a result Kitniyos were not to be used. Coincidentally, I had printed out the 2011 OU Pesach Guide and was reading it. I found that the assertion by Kosher Australia vis a vis Quinoa and Kitniyos was false! In earlier years, the OU had been negative, but this year they decided (quite correctly in my opinion) that the issue of whether to use Quinoa was a matter for individual kehilos.

Let’s face some facts. Determining whether something is or isn’t Kitniyos is not the same as telling us whether treyf is used as an ingredient in foodstuff. Kitniyos is in many ways a more complex question and one that requires a Psak from one’s own Rabbi who I believe will consult with his own Posek Muvhak given the nature of the question. I think the OU got it right. If you want to use Quinoa you should ask your Rav unless you happen to also have a family Minhag of חדש אסור מן התורה. This was also the basis for Rav Moshe’s permissive ruling on peanuts, but of course it didn’t matter if it was Rav Moshe, the Machmirim on the right eventually squeezed out a universal issur on peanuts (and peanut oil). I can remember in the old days we had oils that eventually “became” kitniyos. And no, we never had those nuts in Poland!

Kosher Australia has no business determining what is and what is not Kitniyos.

In fact, they have done a good thing by listing a table of items which some consider Kitniyos. This is the way it should be with Quinoa as well. This episode is a very subtle way that Rabonim are attempting to create a Minhag in Australia by default, by “trying to be all things to all people”. Yes, we are Machmir on Pesach. But even Rabonim said not to be Machmir on Potatoes. I know, Potatoes are a European staple and this avant-garde  Quinoa stuff is something Charedim can’t spell or say, let alone know how to integrate into an oily cholent.

Yes, it is true that the London Beth Din don’t allow Quinoa, equally, the  Star K and Chicago cRc do allow it. Kosher Australia should have adopted the stance of the OU and kept out of this. Rabbi Sprung in Melbourne paskened for Mizrachi that it was fine as long as it was supervised.

By the way, the list of “maybe Kitniyos” listed in Kosher Australia’s booklet is also wrong. It claims that carrots are not Kitniyos according to all. That’s not true. I understand that Belzer don’t eat carrots.

PS. My wife over-ruled me and she won’t let me use Quinoa unless it has a hechsher. I tried to tell her that Eden were certified as one of the brands that had no grain whatsoever in the fields or processing plants and, therefore, it was okay. She wouldn’t hear of it. “Where is the Kosher stamp?”.

Ah, for Shalom Bayis ….