Chief Rabbinate Concerned with Pesticides in Leafy Vegetables

bug-free-greens-katif-hagolanjpeg-21Leading the battle against dangerous greens are Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger Shlita and Tzfat Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu Shlita, who heads the Chief Rabbinate’s leafy greens department. They are targeting growers who feel that instead of using the necessary controlled hothouse conditions to create insect-free vegetables, they rely on regular methods and spray mega doses of insecticides to drive the pestilence away. The Chief Rabbinate is concerned with the consequences of consumers ingesting vegetables that have been exposed to the extreme levels of insecticides and it is considering revoking kashrut certification from such growers.

Ironically, in addition to posing a health risk, Rav Eliyahu explains it is ineffective, since large doses of pesticides do not reach all areas of a leafy item, and if the bugs are killed, it does not remove them. One may not eat a dead insect any more than a live one.

The Chief Rabbinate explains that after consulting with experts in the health and agriculture ministries, it may weigh the possibility of revoking the kashrut certificates from such growers.

Rabbi Metzger is also aware the matter may find its way to the High Court of Justice but he is comfortable that the decision will be upheld, explaining that over use of pesticides poses a serious health hazard and one may not give kashrut supervision to a poisonous item.

Interestingly, the report is in line with recent statements quoted by Jerusalem Kosher News from internationally renowned expert, Rabbi Moshe Vaya Shlita, who explained to me that the insect-free greens grown properly actually use less pesticides than their regular counterparts, explaining in many cases, regular growers plagued with insect infestation just boost the pesticides, which often go undetected but the bug-free brands with kashrut supervision are closely monitored and inspected, and therefore, such an occurrence is avoided.

4 Comments

  • Chaim
    July 21, 2009 - 12:46 | Permalink

    I am thrilled to see the Torah world finally catching up with the conservative movement and being less narrow-minded about kashrut.

    I’m waiting for the day when a kashrut symbol will mean that, in addition to being technically kosher, the product is free of harmful food colorings, preservatives and other such chemicals (it’s maddening to see some of the unhealthiest junk food bearing some of the most “mehudar” hashgachot). And I’d like to know that the kashrut symbol on my meat means that it was raised and slaughtered without causing צער בעלי חיים and not just that the lungs are spotless.

    The conservatives already take these and other considerations (such as proper treatment of workers) into account when giving their quasi-kosher “hashgacha.” How long will we be lagging behind in this area?

  • lia
    July 21, 2009 - 12:49 | Permalink

    What are the safe insect-free brands that we should be looking for, and which ones use high pesticide doses?

  • Chaim
    July 22, 2009 - 22:37 | Permalink

    חסלט has third-party pesticide supervision so it’s guaranteed safe. Based on what Rav Vaya was saying (at the end of the article), the other older and more trusted brands – עלי הבשור and גלאט עלים – should be ok as well.

    FYI, not all “bug-free” brands are truly bug free. The Arab-owned עלי השרון, for example, is exceptionally buggy. The three brands I mentioned above are known to be the best (I recently heard that there were another one or two that are acceptable), and even those you have to clean properly.

  • Moshe
    July 23, 2009 - 14:04 | Permalink

    Of course we would welcome Kashrut certification to represent more than pure Halocho.

    The problem that I foresee is that it is today almost impossible to get a standard set of rules as to what is Kosher al pi Shulchan Oruch. If we start to add health, social, political, ethical etc etc. factors into the equation, we will ultimately end up with such a mess, that no one will know any longer whom to trust. In the end we could scare away potential chozrim biTeshuvah or cause even more at-risk situations.

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