This time it's Religious Zionist rabbis in Israel.
Halachic ruling forbids strawberries
Torah and Land Institute finds tiny insect that clings to fruit despite washing, pesticide
Kobi Nahshoni, Ynet
Strawberries sold in Israel are infested with tiny insects that cannot be removed with water or pesticide, and are therefore forbidden according to halacha, The Torah and Land Institute has announced after a series of laboratory tests.
Rabbi Yehuda Amichai, who heads the institute, told Ynet that "it used to be enough to take the green leaves off of the strawberry and wash it with soap, but today the bugs stick to the dots on the fruit, and emerge even after a good washing".
He said strawberries that had been sprayed with pesticide were not safe either. "In the end they also have insects that won't come off, even if there are less," he said.
Chief Rabbi of Safed Shmuel Eliyahu ruled on the issue after consulting with a number of experts. "This is another derivative of the Shmita year," he told Ynet, referring to the fact that on every seventh year, farming is forbidden to Jews, resulting in the growing of strawberries in the Palestinian territories.
"In the Arab sector the fields are watered with waste water and as a result there has been an overflow of insects. Then the strawberries grown by Jews in Israel were also contaminated," he said.
The solution, according to Amichai, is to either peel the skin from the fruit or to puree it in the blender. Although the puree will still have parts of insects, he explains, the halacha does not forbid their digestion.
But scientists and agriculturists are already working on a solution to the crisis, which includes the washing of strawberries in a large, Jacuzzi-like vat that eliminates the insects entirely. Rabbi Amichai said he hoped the method, still in preliminary stages of development, would work out.
The reason pureed strawberries are acceptable to this rabbi is din baria, a rabbinic construct that makes a tiny insect weighing far less than a kezayit (a roughly olive-sized measurement) or even a hatzi kezayit (half that) completely forbidden if whole, even if it is still whole but lost inside a large amount of kosher food.
To compare, a 10 pound piece of non-kosher meat mixed up with two pieces of kosher meat is kosher, even if one piece is in your attic, one in your refrigerator and the third in your basement. As long as one piece cannot be distinguised from another in terms of kosher or non-kosher, the law of rov, majority, applies. And that makes all the pieces of meat kosher to eat. The same rule applies if you are dealinng with three whole chickens, two kosher and one non-kosher.
However, if the bug is not whole then it can be made battel (negated), based on the amount of kosher food in the mixture. So pureeing strawberries (and the tiny, not really visable bugs that come with them) makes the bugs not whole, and then makes them negated in the resulting mixture.
I still contend bugs this small are not a kashrut problem. They cannot be easily seen with the naked eye, if they can even be seen at all.
Past that, the standard for what can and can not be seen is not what a person with excellent vision can see under high quality artificial light or bright sunlight. It is waht the average person could see before there were eyeglasses, artificial lighting, clear glass windows and smoke free heating sources – in other words, if you can't easily see a bug because the bug is very small, then the bug should not pose any kashrut problem.
Many Orthodox rabbis, however, disagree.
[Hat Tip: Chicago Samson.]