Insects Not Kosher

Most everyone knows that pork is a prohibited item for consumption in the strict observance of a kosher diet. And because of pork’s prevalence in the every day eating affairs for much of our nation’s population, it has become a problem in honoring this prohibition for many followers of kashrus, especially because of its palatable appeal!  

But did you know that an even bigger problem than pork for kosher-keepers is the avoidance of insects often found in produce?  Some observers may even be considered obsessive with this avoidance – at least compared to the original ancient intentions of this rule.  So with the advent of optical magnification and devices like light tables, a few certifying agencies have developed methods to assure that fresh produce that will be packaged for refrigeration or freezing is free of bugs – even beyond the requirements of the USDA guidelines.  However, getting a close examination of every piece of broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus and raspberry is simply too labor and time intensive.  Instead, processes are agreed upon between the certifying agencies and the food producers for how to clean the produce, and the mashgiash will typically only examine a small representative amount.  If it passes this test, then the entire shipment will earn the kosher seal on its packaging.  The same cleaning process could be used for any package of non-kosher produce, but if the rabbinical authority doesn’t get his or her eyes on a sample, then it can’t get the agency’s stamp of approval.

Now as for your own in-home examination of the fresh fruits and vegetables that you prepare for consumption:  How much time and effort are you going to exert in eliminating these arthropods from every nook and cranny of nature’s gifts?  Clearly this can develop into a besetting problem with every deeper and more detailed study of the fresh food we eat!  Is this how our ancestors handled our food, or is this a modern manifestation of a simpler ancient prohibition?

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