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February 13, 2012

Worms In Canned Fish Found Kosher By DNA Anaysis

OU logoAre the worms now found in many canned sardines kosher? Can the sardines be eaten as is? DNA has provided the answer.


The OU brought samples of canned sardines to a parasitologist at the American Museum of Natural History to determine through DNA testing if worms found in those cans come from worms located in the intestinal tracts of the fish or if they come from worms located in the bodies of the fish – a difference with halakhic import, because worms located in fish flesh are kosher, while those located in the intestinal tract are not.

Worms are commonly found in fish.

Dr. Mark Siddall found the worms originated in the flesh of the fish, and the OU now considers canned sardines (with kosher supervision, of course) to be kosher.

Besides relying on DNA to determine a kashrut question, what is most interesting to me is the NY Times' understanding of the issue:

Talmudic debates can turn on fine distinctions, but this was relatively straightforward. The presence of worms could have been a sign that, during the preparation of the canned sardines, muscle from the fish had been improperly handled and allowed to mix with intestinal contents of the sardines, rendering them unkosher.

No, sorry, NY Times. That is not correct.

What makes the sardines not kosher are the worms. If no worms are found, or if finding worms is very rare – which was, apparently, the case for some time – then the fish is kosher no matter how the intestines are handled.

There isn't a processing issue with the sardines – there's an infestation issue with the sardines, and there is no special processing protocol for kosher supervised canned sardines.

A minor point, perhaps, but it does illustrate how difficult it is for reporters to correctly cover issues related to Orthodoxy and Jewish law.

As for the worms, their very common in many types of fish, including otherwise kosher types of fish, and have been pretty much forever. They're perfectly safe to eat as long as they've been cooked or frozen first.

But like bugs on fresh produce, rabbis have been using modern technology (light boxes, magnification, etc.) to find them, something Jewish law never imagined.

That hyper scrutiny has created a whole new range of foods Orthodox Jews cannot eat or can eat, but only by paying very inflated prices for special kosher brands – like Bodek vegetables, for example.

Here's a link to a paper written by Dr. Mark Siddall, a curator and professor in the invertebrate department of the American Museum of Natural History, who conducted the testing for the OU:

DNA Barcoding of Parasitic Nemetodes: Is It Kosher?


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I knew there was a reason I have never liked sardines...

Careful Yidden will not open up a can of worms when it comes to Kashrut.

How does DNA testing determine whether the fish are from the flesh or the intestines? Is it that different types of worms would be found in different places?

Yes presumably they match the DNA with that of known samples.

Thank God for science.....

The more they look for things of this nature, the more they'll find.

Soon, there will be no food that is kosher enough for the frumma to eat.

Rabbi Belsky explains why the sardine worms are kosher. He bases it on Chulin 67b, which states that worms in the flesh of a fish are kosher, since they grew there and were not ingested. This is based on the idea, also found in hilchos shabbos, that insects can grow on their own, without sexual reproduction. With this in mind, the rabbis don't consider such worms or bugs to be actual insects.

The problem is that scientifically this is not true. Neither bugs nor worms grow on their own!

The fact that frumma have this kind of arcane silly bullshit to occupy their time with only further underscores their irrelevance to the real world.

Of course. The kosher definitions are based on the "spontaneous generation" theory. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spontaneous_generation). This is a misconception that goes back to at least Aristotle: "Now there is one property that animals are found to have in common with plants. For some plants are generated from the seed of plants, whilst other plants are self-generated through the formation of some elemental principle similar to a seed; and of these latter plants some derive their nutriment from the ground, whilst others grow inside other plants, as is mentioned, by the way, in my treatise on Botany. So with animals, some spring from parent animals according to their kind, whilst others grow spontaneously and not from kindred stock; and of these instances of spontaneous generation some come from putrefying earth or vegetable matter, as is the case with a number of insects, while others are spontaneously generated in the inside of animals out of the secretions of their several organs." This was mainstream thinking until the 17th century. Pasteur is famous for disproving it, and microscopes finally made it clear how bacteria were involved.

How do you file a bug report on a religious belief?

How do you file a bug report on a religious belief?

Posted by: John Nagle, Silicon Valley, CA | February 13, 2012 at 06:07 PM

Take it to the Rav....

The problem is that the frumma simply don't understand just how much of their thinking comes from flawed goyishe thinking of the time. The Church eventually came around to believe in the indisputable scientific facts but the frumma never did (e.g. they still believe in a geocentric model of the universe and this was further reinforced by the late (current?) Lubavitcher Rebbe). The Catholic Church abandoned opposition to geocentrism by about the first half of the 18th century and apologised for the persecution of Galileo in 1992.

It infuriates me how these folks are sold bullshit fairy tales by people who know, or at least suspect, that the fairy tales are just that.

Still, the ends justify the means don't they and when you are saving precious Jewish souls no wickedness is beyond the pale. No perversion is too extreme.

..............something Jewish law never imagined.

Trying to get investors together to start selling tallit katans with 813 knot tzitzits, because if 613 is religious............

Reminds me that once upon a time visiting the museum on Ellis Island, there was a poster in Yiddish signed by some rabbis saying that they could not vouch for the kashrut of the food on the 'vyat shtar' line except for the sardines. Could not fathom eating only sardines for an entire crossing.

Sounds like more in the Driving-a-Camel-through-the-eye-of-a-Needle Dept.

Apologies for the Synoptic Gospel allusion. :-(

They're perfectly safe to eat as long as they've been cooked or frozen first.

So what about sushi?

"That hyper scrutiny has created a whole new range of foods orthodox jews cannot eat or can eat,but only by paying very inflated prices for special kosher brands".Very well said.
.Of course in the ortodox world,everything comes down to a scam to make more money out of the mass of non thinking herd.

Actually Shmarya you are wrong with your analysis. There is absolutly a difference if the worms were ingested live by the fish or if they hatched within its flesh. The talmud clearly permits eating worms who hatch within the flesh of the fish. The problem arose because some people believed that worms that where showing up in the cans of sardines are of the type that were ingested by the fish and found its way into the can through improper removal of the intestines. Since they are very similar species to the one found in the fish's flesh there was no way to know if this was true. But with the DNA test iw was determined that the worms found in the cans are of the permitted type. Good work by the OU, and Bon Apetit to everyone else.

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