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Tevet 4, 5772

Food with no hechsher


Rabbi David Sperling

Question:
Hello,

There is a relatively new coffee product for sale in the US and elsewhere does not have a kashrut. Their products include several kinds, some with powdered milk and others with just coffee. In general, I have heard that coffee alone does not reqiure its own hechsher however,

1. The coffee only product also includes a plant extract called Ganoderma. Is this kosher without a certification?

2. Does it matter that other products are made by this company, assuming their other coffee products with ingredients like dried milk powder, are not kosher?

The company is OrganoGold and its website is: http://organogold.com/US/c_beverages.asp

Thank you for your time!

Answer:
Shalom,
Your question about the kashrut of coffee that does not have a hechser raises an interesting point. Before I get to it, let me state straight out that questions of kashrut of products need to be addressed by the relevant kashrut authorities in each location. The reason for this is that in today's complex manufacturing processes, it is almost impossible to give any reliable answers to questions of this sort without "inside" information of the exact production line. Each factory and product has a myriad of questions relating to ingredients and equipment used that differ from place to place and product to product. So my "bottom-line" answer to you is to turn to the kashrut authorities in the place of production - it seems like that is the US, so try the O-U or O-K etc, which both have good websites (if it was an Israeli product, I would send you to the "Koshrot" organization, which is very knowledgable about what happens here in Israel).

As I said, your question raises an interesting question - can we, or should we, buy products that are kosher but lack a hechsher? Firstly, there are certain products that the kashrut authorities themselves explain do not need a hechsher, such as raw unprocessed foods. In some countries this list is quite long, including plain salt and sugar etc. These things may of course be purchased, as the local kashrut agency has examined the situation and declared these products trouble free.

But other items, in my opinion, should not be bought, even if one knows for certain they are kosher. This is for two reasons - the first is that this will inevitably lead to mistakes (are we really sure they are kosher? see above), or at least a laxness in kashrut observance. Secondly, I believe we should support companies who go out of their way to obtain kashrut supervision, in order to strengthen the overall community standard of kashrut.

Of course there will always be special cases, such as people on special diets etc, who need a certain food - in which case after a thorough investigation into the kashrut of the product (which is best carried out firstly by contacting the local experts, as I wrote above), one may use such products.

Blessings,
D. Sperling


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