Thursday, February 19, 2009

kashrus in israel #4

Rabbonim in Eretz Yisrael: Palm Oil Problem Doesn’t Exist Here

While we haven’t yet begun cleaning our homes for Pesach, the kashrusindustry is quite busy, making preparations and checking factories ascompanies are manufacturing and shipping kosher for Pesach goods. Palmoil is used in the food industry year round, but the demand on Pesach increases because it does not contain kitnios and it among therelatively affordable non-kitnios Pesach oils.

In America however, rabbonim are discussing problems pertaining to fears there may be a kashrus question surrounding the oil this year.It appears the mehadrin oil is delivered in tankers that also carry traif oil. In Eretz Yisrael, rabbonim believe the problem does not exist, stating it only impacts oil delivered to North America. At times, the oil is bottled in the factory but more often, it is dumped into the enormous vats onboard ships, and delivered in the belly of the tankers. Due to the oil’s properties and tendency to solidify in colder temperatures, the ships’ hull is heated to permit the oil to maintain its fluid property.

This rabbonim explain just makes the problem more complex. According to Rav Yehuda Sharshevsy of Maskel L’David, under the leadership of HaGaon Rav Aaron Nesher Shlita, when the hot water heating the vats runs across them, as well as across the vats of non-kosher oils, the outer lining of the vats are contaminated and absorband this can actually make the kosher oil traif. The oil delivered from the Far East to Israel he explains is less of a problem because they rarely manufacture traif oils there. Tankers heading for NorthAmerica however are a different story he explains because they stop at different ports along the way, in countries were non-kosher oils may indeed be loaded on the vessel.

Rabbonim explain the problem is not a new one, but it was only detected recently, by rabbonim of the OU in the United States, who areengaged in halachic discussions as addressing the difficulty.One might think the easiest solution is to bottle the oil in factories but this is not practical since much of it is used in the commercial food industry and bottling in 1 liter or similar size bottles does not provide an acceptable solution for the industry.Most poskim today forbid oil heated by the same system that heats traif oil, Rav Sharshevsky explains, but there are rabbonim who adopt a more lenient ruling. One of the reasons is that a chemical agent that prevents rust is also introduced into the heating system’s line,thereby rendering it ‘unfit’ (pagum) so anything absorbed does notrender the kosher oil traif. Another reason for adopting a lenientposition is the fact the temperature is low, below boiling and below cooking temperature.

Nevertheless, most rabbonim will not approve the oil that was heated by the same system which heats non-kosher oil. Rabbonim involved in the oil production and delivery stress that in Eretz Yisrael, the matter is under control, even for the mehadrin community. Rabbonim of the Jerusalem-based Eida Chareidis explain that before mehadrin oil under its supervision is loaded into tankers on trains or boats, they kasher the tanks their stringent level to make sure the oil is introduced into an acceptable environment without and fears ofrendering the oil non-kosher. A mashgiach rides along with the oil shipment as well, in trains, boats or whatever, making certain no non-kosher oils are loaded on board with the kosher mehadrin oil.

The same holds true with the supervision of Badatz Rav Moshe Yehuda Leib Landau Shlita of Bnei Brak, explains that oil for this Pesach isalready on its way, in bottles and tanks, and prior to introducing anyoil into a tank, his mashgichim clean and inspect the tanks. As is the case with the Eida Chareidis, the mashgichim accompany the shipment toits final destination, Eretz Yisrael. When the shipment arrives in Eretz Yisrael, the rabbonim of these mehadrin hechsherim inspect the paperwork with a fine tooth comb,making certain the documents match what they knew from the point of origin. If they learn or even suspect that somehow the boat accepted non-kosher oil on its way to Eretz Yisrael, they will not grant ahechsher on the shipment.

According to kashrus expert Rav Moshe Mordechai Silber of the BelzeMachzikei Hadas supervision, the problem is a known one and it only exists on shipments sent to the United States, not Israel. This is whyhe explains that in Israel, they will not import the oil from N.America. The oil is imported directly from Malaysia and Indonesia,where they do not produce non-kosher oil. As with the Eida Chareidis and Rav Landau, Belze also sends mashgichim who accompany the oil throughout the entire process until it reaches Eretz Yisrael. Anyproblems along the way will render the shipment unsuitable and it will not receive the Belze certification. According to Rav Yaakov Silber of the Rav Simcha HaCohen Kook –Rechovot Mehadrin explains their hechsher only imports the palm oil for Pessach, and not during the year. The hechsher only imports closed sealed bottles, avoiding many of the problems.

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