Nov 4, 2012

Interesting Psak: Bug-Free Vegetables Shouldn't Be Eaten

In what has been reported in all the frum press and media, Chief Rabbi Rav Shlomo Amar has issued a psak that is surprising in nature.

Bug-free veggies has become something of a staple for kashrut in Israel. Many hechshers require it of restaurants, and don't allow "regular" lettuce, cabbage or other greens to be used, not relying on the process of washing and cleaning to rid the veggies of possible bugs. The stores present in the frum neighborhoods, and especially the haredi neighborhoods, carry the bug-free greens almost exclusively, despite the fact that the bug-free vegetables are far more expensive than the "regular" veggies.

So, to suddenly have a psak issued that bug-free vegetables should be avoided is a bit of a surprise. But that is precisely what Rav Amar just paskened. Rav Amar said people should go back to using regular vegetables that were not grown under any special care and then clean them, as we used to.

The problem with the bug-free vegetables, according to Rav Amar, is the way they are treated with pesticides. the amount and type of pesticides used put those who consume these veggies in grave danger.

Rav Amar mentions a few reasons that pushed him to issue the psak:

  1. people have come to think that regular vegetables are impossible to clean, and only by growing them in a special way to be bug-free are they kosher, but that causes a health concern (from the pesticides)
  2. It is not possible that specifically those who want to be concerned about kashrut problems have to pay so much more for their vegetables, and then those veggies are dangerous to eat!
  3. Those who have less income are paying more for their vegetables  and due to the expense might not buy these foods for their children, due to the expense... 

According to Rav Amar, the vegetable growers use pesticides that are especially strong, some of which they are not allowed to use, and some use them in concentrations that are greater than those allowed. Somehow these growers, that are supposedly under supervision, are using 8 to 10 times the amounts allowed by the Ministry of Health, according to laboratory testing that has been done. And, he points to studies in increasing numbers showing that many chronic diseases around the world are caused by pesticides. With danger being something to be even more concerned about than issur, these vegetables should not be eaten.

If the above claims are true, and laboratories have tested and found them to be using illegal pesticides and pesticides in amounts greater than those permitted, I would expect Rav Amar to send his findings to the Ministry of Health. They should be investigating how these products have been allowed to be sold on the shelves of the supermarket, considering the types and amounts of pesticides being used. If the claims are true, they should be shut down or forced to change their milkshake of pesticides. And, if the claims were to be investigated and found to be not true, I would expect Rav Amar to retract his psak.

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  1. so why doesn't kavod harav pull the heksher of the rabbinate?

  2. good question. maybe individually each chemical has a hechsher, and its only the combination and/or the amounts that cause the problem? :-)

    seriously, he should.

    and then he should pull it off the bleach as well, for the same reasons. I guess items dont need to be edible to have a hechsher...

  3. Rav Amar is right - bug checking used to be how to find and remove bugs (when possible). Now the teacher shows the class a bug on a piece of produce and calls it "infested", everyone gasps, and the teacher explains how to triple-wash and double-scrub it so that there's less than a 0.01% chance any bugs are left on it. Only the people teaching the classes are "ne'emanim" to actually check for bugs anymore....

  4. Ben, does the rabanut have a mandate to give musar hechshers or only the food and shabbat certificate the law allows it? Should the rabanut start pulling hechsher from restaurants that don't give waiters a salary, or in contrast, take the tips for itself?

    Given that, this general psak against peticides is not loshon hara? We automatically assume that most of the lettuce is involved, but why not any specific companies?


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