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Chief Rabbi: Stop Ingesting Pesticides to Avoid Bugs

The Chief Rabbinate describes serious incidences where ‘bug-free,’ leafy vegetable growers are using higher levels of pesticides than allowed.

Israeli Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar.

Israeli Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar.
Photo Credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash 90

Israel’s Sephardi Chief Rabbi, Rav Shlomo Moshe Amar, is stepping up his campaign against ‘bug-free’ vegetables.

He previously called on the public, in an elaborated ruling, to use leafy vegetables that hadn’t been treated with pesticides and to thoroughly clean them at home “like in the good old days.” Now, the Rabbinate has made public its intention to make the criteria even tougher, and in extraordinary cases even to remove kashrut certification from stores marketing vegetables with high level of pesticides

A letter issued by the Kashrut department of the Chief Rabbinate, describes “serious incidences where some of the supervised, ‘bug-free,’ leafy vegetable growers are using higher levels of pesticides than allowed or alternatively using forms of pesticides that are forbidden by Health Ministry standards because they are harmful to human health.”

“The national Kashrut division has been asked to instruct officials providing kashrut certification to these producers to issue certificates only to companies supervised by the Israeli health ministry on a regular basis – either directly by health ministry laboratories or by laboratories approved by the ministry,” the Rabbinate’s letter continued.

The letter stated emphatically: “Let it be clear to all food services and producers whose kashrut is certified by the local rabbinate, not to purchase, under any circumstances, produce that is not supervised, since it is impossible to check it in the public sector. As of now, there is no change in the instructions that obligate you to use health ministry-supervised produce exclusively.”

A Chief Rabbinate spokesman said that “companies which will not comply with these standards will be disqualified by the issuers of Kashrut certificates, and we will even publicize it, so that it won’t be permissible to use their products in places that are supervised by the local rabbinate.”

In a long, detailed, halachic ruling issued last week, Rav Amar wrote that it is preferable to use vegetables that were not grown by the bug-free method (using the dangerous pesticides) and to clean them at home. According to Rav Amar, the processes used to prevent infestation cause many health risks.

Rav Amar is adamant on correcting the popular misconception among Orthodox Jews that it is impossible to clean vegetables from insects, and that they, therefore, must be purged using special ‘bug-free’ methods which actually cause a lot of health hazards.

Rav Amar further argues that it is inconceivable that the population that wants to be more cautious about kashrut issues should spend more money for produce that is hazardous to their health.

According to Rav Amar’s halachic ruling, “there is no justification that people who are careful regarding the prohibition of eating worms and insects pay good money for it, and that even poor people are driven to reduce their children’s food intake, thinking they are being spared from halachic prohibitions, only to be victims of bigger threats than those halachic prohibitions.”

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20 Responses to “Chief Rabbi: Stop Ingesting Pesticides to Avoid Bugs”

  1. The friend who brought this to my attention described it as "A halachic ruling based on common sense that made it into the media! (Well, OK, just the Jewish Press)". Just so!

  2. Heshy R says:

    Better edit your headlines a little better… this made me think that some Jews were resorting to a new 'chumrah,' popping pesticides to avoid bugs!

  3. Leta Lenik says:

    Could this really be common sense prevailing? Yay!

  4. Danny Cohen says:

    this was a very confusing article.

  5. Daniel Barenholtz says:

    Ha – you have been spotted Danny! And let's not start talking about confused!

  6. Myriam Obadia says:

    Thank you Rabbi for your wisdom. I'll continue saving money and protecting my health by buying low pesticide greens and washing them with vinegar and water, the way my Grandmother taught me.

  7. Jonathan, my name is Bob Ellington(British name). My mother was Jewish, her father James Abram. I knew little of my blood line until 1992 when my mother died. I find out from my sister. I study the bible all the time. We are in the end times. Israel is on the verge of being restored. I have many Jewish friends & I tell them that Israel will not fall again.

  8. Of course you are right Myriam, but I'm sure you agree that the temptation to use the bug free ones when one is tired, overworked, has a lot of kids and/or guests – is great!

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