Lo Basi Ella L’orer: Creating Adequate Mirsas

The Gemara Avoda Zara teaches us that kosher milk, cheese, bread, and muryess require a seal if they are left in the hands of a non-Jew because of concern that these items might be switched. This halacha is brought in Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 118:1. This calls in to question why we allow companies to use halachicly sensitive ingredients. The most sensitive ingredients are those that have non-kosher equivalents and a price differential. Obvious examples of this are kosher cheese, wine, grape juice and glycerin. Once the package is open there are no simonim. Shouldn’t we require hashgacha temidis?

There are a number of mitigating factors that can be used to explain the OU’s position, but the question remains, are these reasons sufficient or should we be trying to do more. Recently, I discussed this question with Rav Belsky and he agreed that we should be putting more emphasis on companies that have control over sensitive ingredients, and Rabbi Genack asked me to be mifarsaim this issue.

The only way we can allow for sensitive ingredients to be left at a company without a seal is if we know that there is a sufficient level of mirsas. The yotzei v’nichnas visitations obviously is our greatest deterrent towards companies trying to make non-kosher substitutions, but I would like to suggest some ways that we can upgrade our level of hashgacha and increase the level of mirsas.

  1. Mashgichim that visit plants that have sensitive ingredients should ask to see all the bills of lading. They should try to familiarize themselves with how often these ingredients are delivered and how many productions can be made from each delivery. If anything seems suspicious this should be reported to the RC. In general, show extra concern and attentiveness to these ingredients.
  2. To make sure drums are not being refilled, mashgichim should make a notation on the packaging of how full the contents are and the date. If it is possible to measure or weigh the item and get a more exact number that is obviously even better.
  3. RCs should stress to their contacts at the companies that these items will be more closely monitored. They should ask direct questions from their contacts as to the sources of these ingredients and if there have been any changes.
  4. When necessary we should increase the number of visitations. We all understand that there are companies about which we are more concerned and those about which we are less concerned, for various reasons. For example, companies that keep meticulous books might be less of a concern than those that appear to be in disarray. Large companies with many levels of bureaucracy are probably less likely to be making switches than small companies where the owner does the purchasing and the receiving. If there is a company in which the RC currently lacks confidence that the present number of visitations is adequate then he should make efforts to have that number increased. As this will affect the financials of the company, it will have to be done with approval.

If anyone has any other ideas of how to tighten controls over these ingredients please let me know.

OU Kosher Staff