25 May KASHRUS QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK
Do canned and frozen vegetables need a hechsher?
There are a few issues when it comes to canned and frozen vegetables. One is an issue that applies to all vegetables and that’s the issue of infestation. One has to make sure that the vegetable doesn’t have an issue with infestation. So when we speak about spinach and broccoli and other vegetables that may have an issue with infestation, that doesn’t change whether they’re frozen or canned. So whatever we need to be concerned about and do when we’re eating the vegetables fresh, we need to do when we’re eating the vegetables frozen.
Then there’s a different issue. By definition, vegetables are a seasonal product. So when you have a factory that cans or freezes vegetables, during the season of that vegetable, even if it’s a vegetable that isn’t a problematic vegetable from any other perspective, there is an issue of what the factory is doing when they’re not canning or freezing that vegetable. They can be freezing meat or other food that is not kosher. Therefore, all canned vegetables should be properly certified even if the vegetable you’re eating does not have a kashrus issue and is just a plain vegetable. You have to make sure it has proper supervision to make sure the equipment wasn’t used for something else.
Another issue that can come up is that you need to know the source of the vegetables. Vegetables that come from Israel have issues with trumos and maisros and therefore you need to know the source of the vegetable. This is not strictly for canned or frozen vegetables, but for any vegetables. When you buy vegetables from the store, you should try to find out where they’re coming from. A reliable supervision is also making sure there aren’t those issues. When you don’t have supervision, there’s no one making sure.
Does toothpaste need a hechsher?
On the one hand, toothpaste has in it some very serious ingredients when you think about it from a kashrus perspective. Most toothpaste has glycerin in it which is a fatty acid that comes from many sources, including animal sources, that can be non-kosher. Non-kosher glycerin is cheaper and more readily available than kosher glycerin. If there’s a company that’s using glycerin and it’s not a certified product, they have no reason to use a kosher glycerin when they can use a non-kosher and cheaper glycerin.
Another issue is that toothpaste has flavor and flavors are very complex in kashrus. Every ingredient in a flavor needs to be examined. So when you think about toothpaste from the perspective of the ingredients you may find in it, it can be a big concern. Having said everything I just said, the question becomes: Is toothpaste a food that needs supervision? An argument can be made and some hold that toothpaste is not made to be eaten. It’s made to be put on your teeth and then spit out. There’s a concept in halacha of “shelo bderech achila.” If there’s something that we don’t eat in the normal fashion that food is eaten, it’s not considered food and we don’t need it to be kosher. Therefore, there are different opinions amongst the poskim, as to whether one needs to use kosher toothpaste. Rav Belksy used to say that he felt people should try to get kosher toothpaste. My personal opinion is that when it was difficult to find toothpaste with a reliable kosher supervision, then maybe what we just explained would be okay; our health is very important. However, we have become very fortunate that there are many companies that are manufacturing kosher toothpaste. Therefore, my opinion is that one should only use toothpaste with a reliable kosher hechsher.