A Bit About Checking the Greens

17 Sivan 5770
May 30, 2010

lettuce1Many readers have written in, some seeking to understand how the Chief Rabbinate determines the quality of the various companies producing bug-free greens, known as “Gush Katif” greens. Readers wish to inquire regarding pesticide levels, bug levels and the integrity of the various companies carrying a wide range of hechsherim.

I spoke with Nati Sarusi, the Chief Rabbinate’s coordinator in Sderot, the man who really speaks from a hands-on perspective and a wealth of experience.

Permit me to back track for a moment.

A number of weeks ago, I approached one of the vendors in the shuk, Machane Yehuda, showing him the latest report from the Chief Rabbinate rating the integrity of insect-free claims by the various companies. The vendor, who sports a kippa, is no stranger, and we know one-another for a number of years, not personal friends, but from a shopper retailer perspective.

In this case, [only] brand of insect-free greens that he sells is rated quite low, and I respectfully suggested that perhaps he sell a different brand, one of those appearing in the higher categories of the Rabbinate’s latest report.

He discarded the legitimacy of the report, adding [in an agitated tone] “it’s all politics” and Rabbi … selects the companies he wants and pushes the others to the bottom, having his own reason, which admittedly remain a mystery to me and apparently to the vendor as well, who could not explain when I asked why it is so.

The man in charge of the Chief Rabbinate’s division that inspects and rates the bug-less greens in Tzfat Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu Shlita, and I must admit, in my opinion, I find it hard to believe that his motives are anything but pure. I believe that anyone who knows Rav Eliyahu would agree. Anyway, stranger things have happened so I set out to learn a bit more, trying to find out if the shuk vendor’s claims might by true.

Hashem is always there running things, but every now and then, he permits us a true glance, opening that window a bit, making it abundantly clear he is out there orchestrating events. As I began making calls, seeking to find the correct person, I receive a call from Nati Sarusi about a totally different matter. Hashem sent the man to me – I think that is quite amazing.

Anyway, this is how the system works and from my perspective, kudos to the Chief Rabbinate, Rav Eliyahu and R’ Sarusi, along with all the others involved. In my humble opinion, they have established a system that removes any chance of bias from the testing process.

Sarusi bags the random samples from hothouses in Sderot, hothouses from a number of companies. He codes the bags with numbers, and registers the numbers with the appropriate company names in his log. The list with the company names however remains with him, and the samples sent to the Chief Rabbinate lab are coded by number only. The inspectors have no way of knowing which sample belongs to a specific company, and they record their findings regarding insects and pesticide levels by numbers only. These numbers are random and the companies will not receive the same number consistently.

Only after tests are completed does Sarusi send the findings with the corresponding numbers to Rabbi Eliyahu to complete the process of generating a report.

So in this case, the shuk vendor was just venting, perhaps a bit perturbed that I ‘insulted’ his merchandise, or perhaps his profit margin with this particular firm is higher that with others. I cannot really say what motivated him to take such an oppositional position, but I can now say with confidence that his statements are not grounded in fact.

One comment

  • yechiel-admin
    May 30, 2010 - 08:41 | Permalink

    The one sending the bags to the lab can always say – make sure number 632 and number 75 come out OK. When politics is invovled, people can be very creative. I’m not saying this happens, but you cannot say that there are no politics involved based on what you heard.

    What it boils down to is if you trust the agency or not, if you trust the man in charge or not. It should be made perfectly clear that your trust in the Rabbis involved is your own personal impression, and you are not endorsing any hechsher, as you have said repeatedly in the past.

    Thank you for passing on your information. It is definitely informative.

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