A Peek at Pessach & Palm Oil

Thursday, February 19, 2009

This article was printed for Yeshiva World News – www.theyeshivaworld.com,
translated from the weekly Mishpacha Magazine in Israel.

Rabbonim in Eretz Yisrael: Palm Oil Problem Doesn’t Exist Here
While we haven’t yet begun cleaning our homes for Pesach, the kashrus
industry is quite busy, making preparations and checking factories as
companies are manufacturing and shipping kosher for Pesach goods. Palm
oil is used in the food industry year round, but the demand on Pesach
increases because it does not contain kitnios and it among the
relatively 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 absorb
and 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 North
America 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 are
engaged 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 not
render the kosher oil traif. Another reason for adopting a lenient
position 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 of
rendering 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 is
already on its way, in bottles and tanks, and prior to introducing any
oil into a tank, his mashgichim clean and inspect the tanks. As is the
case with the Eida Chareidis, the mashgichim accompany the shipment to
its 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 or
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 a
hechsher on the shipment.

According to kashrus expert Rav Moshe Mordechai Silber of the Belze
Machzikei Hadas supervision, the problem is a known one and it only
exists on shipments sent to the United States, not Israel. This is why
he 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. Any
problems 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. (Yechiel Spira – YWN
Israel)

One comment

  • Milhouse
    April 28, 2009 - 18:14 | Permalink

    This concern about oil treads a very thin line between hidur mitzvah and apikorsus. Rebbi’s beis din permitted goyishe oil, and one who denies that is a zoken mamrei. Both the Mechaber and Ramo explicitly say that this applies EVEN IF the oil was cooked in treife kelim, because the treife oil is nosen taam lifgam. Only the Shach says that the reason it’s OK is because stam kelim einom benei yomon, which wouldn’t apply to today’s commercial environment; therefore one who wants to be strict can say that he is being choshesh for the Shach. But one MAY NOT say that oil without such supervision is treif. To say that is a worse avera than eating actual treif!

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