Monday, February 20, 2006

Kosher Question of the Day: Bagged Salads


Question: Do bagged salads need to be checked for insects?

According to the laws of kashrus, all fruits and vegetables are inherently kosher, but bugs (tolai’im) are absolutely forbidden. Eating an insect violates more Torah prohibitions than eating ham. Eating ham violates one Torah prohibition and eating an insect violates seven Torah prohibitions. According to the United States Food and Drug Assocation (FDA), asparagus is only considered infested if 10% or more of the stalks are infested with 6 or more insects. Mushrooms, according to the FDA, are only considered infested if there are 20 or more maggots per 100 grams of mushrooms. In addition, the US government allows averages of up to 60 insects per 100 grams in frozen broccoli, and up to 50 insects per 100 grams of frozen spinach. According to Jewish Law, the presence of EVEN 1 INSECT makes a fruit or vegetable unfit for consumption. In order to ensure that fruits and vegetables are fit for consumption, they must be cleaned and checked thoroughly, and any insects found must be removed.

Bagged fresh salads pose a unique set of problems. Many consumers assume that the vegetables are washed satisfactorily and free of bugs, based on the Quality Control standards of the company. It is not possible every bag of salad to be insect-free, because farmers have not been consistently able to grow bug-free produce. Organic produce is even more likely to be infested, since it was grown without the use of chemical insecticides. In addition, the company’s washing system is not foolproof. The effectiveness of the washing system is dependent on the level of infestation present in the crop. Some insects are very difficult to remove, especially aphids and thrips, which cling to vegetable surfaces and have their legs embedded in the leaves.

Many people assume that the leniency of “Botul b’shishim” can be applied to insects in vegetables and salads. “Botul b’shishim” says that if the non-kosher ingredient is less than 1/60 of the total food volume, or the flavor of the non-kosher ingredient is not noticeable, the small amount of non-kosher food becomes nullified. There are two reasons by “Botul b’shishim” cannot apply to insects:

1. When the non-kosher food is a complete entity, it becomes distinguished and cannot be nullified.

2. When the small amount of non-kosher food is noticeable, it cannot be considered nullified.


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