“Cow Water”

OU Kosher Staff

In the previous issue of The Daf HaKashrus, Rabbi Avraham Juravel alerted RFR’s to the serious Kashruth concerns involved with “cow water”. In the following article, Rabbi Dovid Cohen discusses, in more depth, these Halachic issues.

Water Recovered From The Concentration Of Non-Kosher Soup, Stam Yayin, Meat, Milk Or Whey

The most basic element of any hashgacha is to make sure that all of the ingredients are kosher. Most people are surprised to learn that water – the most common ingredient and the one ingredient which is rarely even listed on the Schedule A – can potentially be non-kosher. Water?! How can water be non-kosher?! The following is a discussion of one-real life example.

Evaporators/concentrators are used to boil most of the water out of a liquid product (e.g. milk, whey, grape juice, chicken soup) leaving behind a concentrated syrup. In many cases, the vapors that “boil out” aren’t allowed to escape. Instead, the vapors are condensed (cooled, so they turn back into a liquid) into valuable, pure, hot water which can be put to use elsewhere in the plant. For example, the recovered water may be used for CIP (i.e. cleaning and kashering), boiler feed (i.e. production of other products in the plant), preheating of products in a heat exchanger or any other use that requires hot water (e.g. leeching color out of cranberries).

[In dairy plants, this water is called “cow water”]. If the item being condensed is non-kosher or dairy, what is the status of the water produced?

Shulchan Aruch and Rema rule in a number of places that the hot steam that is produced when one cooks non-kosher liquids, stam yayin, milk or (liquid) meat have the same status as the food that they originated from. As noted, concentration is a form of boiling/cooking a liquid and therefore, it seems clear that water recovered from the concentration of non-kosher chicken soup is fleishig and treif, from stam yayin grape juice is stam yayin, and from milk is dairy. Therefore, this water may not be mixed into kosher/pareve products, be used to clean or kasher (!) equipment used for kosher/pareve products, or be used to feed a boiler used for kosher/pareve products.

Rav Belsky noted that the status of water recovered from the concentration of whey is somewhat more complicated. The Gemara says that one who cooks meat with mei chalav is patur from the issur of cooking basar b’chalav because mid’oraisah mei chalav isn’t considered “milk”. Tosfos holds that mei chalav is whey and proves that it is assur mid’rabannan to eat whey with meat. The Rosh argues that whey is mid’oraisah considered to be milk and therefore holds that mei chalav refers to whey permeate which is the byproduct of the cooking of whey (in order to cause the protein to precipitate out of the mixture). The Rosh doesn’t say whether he holds that permeate is “dairy” mid’rabannan and the Beis Yosef says that one can possibly infer from the wording of the Gemara that one should be machmir. However, the Kitzur Piskei Rosh (authored by the Tur) and the Rema (as explained by the Shach ) say that even according to the Rosh it is assur mid’rabannan to eat mei chalav/permeate with meat. Shulchan Aruch 87:6 cites the aforementioned Gemara and in 87:8 he cites Rosh’s opinion (as a yesh omrim) as to the definition of “mei chalav” and doesn’t cite Tosfos.

Thus, the water byproduct of milk (i.e. whey) is dairy mid’oraisah and the water byproduct of whey is mid’oraisah not dairy. One could argue that the hot steam produced when milk or whey is boiled has the same status as the water byproducts of those items. If so, although, as noted, the hot steam produced when one boils milk is dairy, the steam produced when whey is boiled (and the water recovered when that steam is condensed) is not. Nonetheless, as noted, the halacha is that the water byproduct of whey is dairy mid’rabannan and therefore the water recovered from the concentration of whey is at least dairy mid’rabannan and may not be used in pareve productions, to clean or kasher pareve equipment or to feed the boiler in a pareve plant.

The above reality Kashruth lesson should teach us that (a) sometimes the most innocuous of ingredients may pose kashrus concerns and (b) one must be intimately familiar with all aspects of a plant’s operation, even those that don’t seem to have kashrus ramifications.