Special bug-free “extra-kosher” vegetables should not be bought, Chief Rabbi says

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 7th November 2012

Consumers who maintain a strict kosher diet are required to check their vegetables and fruit for insect infestation (which is less common anyway in Australia because of stringent food safety and quality assurance systems). Insects are not kosher.

Nevertheless, a groundbreaking ruling on kosher foods by one of Israel’s 2 Chief Rabbis, has made headlines in Israel.

The Sefardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who is also the Haredi-controlled chief rabbinate’s senior decisor of Jewish law, has banned, from the list of Kosher foods,  so-called ‘mehadrin’ (supposedly “extra strictly kosher”) vegetables that are being marketed as ‘bug free’.

His decision was made on the basis that such vegetables are likely to contain higher amounts of pesticide and therefore could pose a danger to health.

Amar ruled that the extremely high amounts of pesticides and other chemicals had been detected in the growing and processing of ‘mehadrin’ vegetables, and these could pose an unnecessary risk to the lives and health of those who consume them.

Amar recommends that kosher shoppers just buy regular vegetables and wash them and inspect them carefully before eating, in order to remove any bugs.

Amar’s ruling is reportedly dozens of pages long, and took months to write. Its main objective is to refute a common religiously-inspired marketing claim that it is impossible to completely clean leafy vegetables of insects. He also refutes claims that Jews have a religious obligation to eat the vegetables grown with a high usage of pesticides and chemicals.

Amar’s ruling cites scientific findings that show that many farmers who grow these special ‘bug free’ vegetables may experience side-effects from exposure to extremely high-doses of pesticides, including approved pesticides.

His ruling also said there was no justification for strictly-kosher consumers paying higher prices for the extra processing compared with the price of regular vegetables.

He was concerned by any obsessiveness that came at the expense of other basic food needs and the endangering of consumers’  health and the health of their families – and that the general principle of protecting life overrode many of the specific stringencies of the Torah, which considers any threats to health and life to be more serious than individual biblical commandments by themselves.