Bishul on Shabbos Part IV: Sweet ‘N Low and Equal

In a previous issue of the Daf HaKashrus (Vol. 23, #9, p.41) we explained that Splenda, a mixture of sucralose, dextrose, and maltodextrin, can be added to coffee in a kli sheni on Shabbos based on the principle of ein bishul achar bishul. Sucralose, the actual sweetening agent, is cooked during the manufacturing process. Dextrose and maltodextrin, the bulking agents, are also cooked.

Sweet’N Low is similar to Splenda. Both are sold in small packets that contain the same kind of bulking agents. The sweetening agent in Sweet’N Low, however, is not sucralose but saccharin, whose manufacturing process raises a question not posed by sucralose.

A common method of manufacturing saccharin is called the Maumee process. This process starts off with a synthetic chemical (a plasticizer) derived from coal tar, which undergoes a number of chemical reactions with other chemicals to produce saccharin. The original chemical is made using an extraordinary amount of heat (300-400°C); each of the chemicals used to modify the original chemical is heated during their manufacture, but the set of reactions of these chemicals leading to the creation of saccharin requires no heat.

Specifically, this process involves the conversion of a chemical called phthalic anhydride to another chemical, anthranilic acid, after which a series of reactions using ammonia, disodium nitrite, sulfuric acid, methanol and chlorine yields (miraculously) saccharin, which is 300 times sweeter than sugar and radically unlike the sensory properties of any of the starting materials. These reactions require very little heat (the highest temperature involved in the reaction, from beginning to end, is about 95°F).

How do we view this new entity? Should it be viewed as a composite of its parts, all of which are “cooked” chemicals, and therefore following the principle of ein bishul achar bishul the composite would not be subject to bishul on Shabbos? Or do we view this newly formed chemical as an entirely new, panim chadashos ba’u lekan? Since this newly formed chemical was never cooked, perhaps it may not be cooked for the first time on Shabbos?

Rav Schachter thought that one may place Sweet’MLow into a kli sheini on Shabbos. Saccharin is comparable, he thought, to salt. The Gemara brings two opinions regarding the cooking of salt: one holds that salt is cooked very easily, as is evidenced by the fact that it readily dissolves in warm water, and therefore should not be added even to a kli sheini. The second opinion, which is the ikar din, is that salt can be added directly to a kli rishon (provided the kli is removed from the fire) because only a full-fledged cooking, on the fire, would really effect a noticeable change in the taste of salt. Saccharin, too, is not changed in any noticeable way when put into hot water, and therefore m’ikar hadin should be able to be placed into a kli sheini. He pointed out, moreover, that although the Rema rules that ideally one should follow the opinion that salt should not be added even to a kli sheini (tavo alav bracha), if salt were already cooked during the manufacturing process (e.g., through a distillation process), even that position would concede that it can be added to a kli rishon. It is not clear what that cooking stage really does to
salt, and nevertheless salt can be relied upon as considered mevushal. Here too, he thought, the cooking step may be considered a bishul. Practically speaking, when Sweet’N Low is added to a liquid, and becomes a liquid, it should only be added to a kli sheini, as discussed in earlier articles.

Rav Belsky added that since all the ingredients in saccharin have already been cooked, and saccharin requires no further cooking, there is no reason to assume that the cooking which saccharin has undergone should be considered lost.

In sum, Sweet’N Low may be added to a kli sheini on Shabbos.

Equal is made from aspartame, acesulfame K, and bulking agents. These items are cooked during the manufacturing process and can be added to a kli sheini on Shabbos.


by Rabbi Gavriel Price, RC, Ingredient Registry
The halachic content of this article was edited by Rabbi Eli Gersten, RC Recorder of OU Psak and Policy

OU Kosher Staff