From the Desk of Don Yoel Levy – Pesach 5775

Featured Image

Last summer, we received reports that Tropicana orange juice contained insects. We immediately checked containers of orange juice in our office and found nothing. Later, the original person who informed us that he found insects told us that he had used a filter that was not clean in order to filter the orange juice.

Nevertheless, at that time we also informed Tropicana and they did extensive checking in their sophisticated lab and also found nothing.

This winter the topic was resurrected by some people in Lakewood, NJ. Again, we took a very fine mesh cloth and filtered several containers of different varieties of Tropicana orange juice. The cloth was so tight that it took a very long time for the orange juice to filter through it. Upon examining the filter after the juice had been strained through, we once again found nothing – no insects or insect parts.

Following this procedure, I invited the person who claimed to find the insect or insect parts to our office to show us his methodology and see our methodology and he refused my invitation. We then bought more juice and had it filtered and inspected by renowned posek and Belzer Dayan, HaRav Usher Anshel Eckstein shlit”a. Rav Eckstein found a few small dots on the filter and we sent the samples to an independent laboratory that confirmed the dots were not  insects or  parts of  insects.

I then asked our posek the following question: “IF there are insect present in the juice, is there a halachic problem? HaRav Eckstein gave us a written psak that there is no halachic problem. Our other posek, HaRav M.M. Weissmandl shlit”a, concurred with HaRav Eckstein.
Finally, I received a video from the person who claimed to find insects. The video showed him straining and checking the orange juice, but his methodology was quite improper. He added water directly from his kitchen faucet to the juice and inspected the filter under a high magnification microscope. The one dot that he found measured 1/3 of a millimeter. Although the person who sent the video claimed that our tests were inaccurate because we probably used a cloth filter that was not thin enough, his video showed that the juice went through his filter much faster than it went through our filter.

Nevertheless, we asked Tropicana to investigate again and Tropicana did extensive checking using a very tight filter cloth and found no insects. Their tests concluded that any dots were fragments of orange peel or pit.

In conclusion, after receiving the video, and even after receiving reports (without any supporting evidence) the OK repeated testing several times and found no evidence of insect parts. Renowned poskim from around the word, including HaRav Chaim Kanievesky shlit”a in Eretz Yisroel, HaRav Shlomo Zalman Ulman shlit”a of Eida HaChareidis,HaRav Dovid Feinstein shlit”a, and the Bais Horaah of Lakewood under HaRav Shlomo Miller shlit”a have all agreed with the psak of HaRav Eckstein that even if an insect was present, there is no halachic kashrus problem.

The OK has a strong track record of taking action when suspected kashrus issues arise. When a potential issue is raised and halachic authorities conclude a change is necessary, the OK implements the ruling right away. Some years ago, when the issue with strawberries arose, we invited Rav Eckstein to our office and he indeed showed us that the strawberries were infested. We immediately changed our policy regarding strawberries.

Some years before that, we certified a vegetable company producing leafy vegetables and felt that there was a problem. We invited Rabbi Vaih from Israel and he told us that they must drastically upgrade their equipment. The company refused and we dropped our certification on this company, which included several plants. (Another agency immediately assumed certification of this company even though 39 rabbis in the New York area objected in a public statement at the time concurring that the produce was infested and could not be certified kosher.)

What is most interesting about the supposed issue with Tropicana orange juice is that the OK, Tropicana and independent laboratories and rabbonim have not found any insects. If there would have been a problem, the OK would immediately act accordingly as we have done in the past.