December 14, 2015

Soda not an Automatic Kosher, Rabbi Tells AKO Conference

New York - For the 150 rabbis who gathered last month at OU headquarters for the annual conference of the Association of Kashrus Organizations (AKO), there was much to share, but one topic, the kashrus of sodas, by Rabbi Sholem Fishbane turned some heads. Rabbi Fishbane who is the Kashrus Administrators for the Chicago Rabbinical Council (cRc) and also serves as AKO’s Executive Director, revealed the results of several investigations on the kashrus of soda. Said Rabbi Fishbane: “It has generally been assumed that as long as one knows that the “flavor” component of a given soda/pop is certified, then they may consume the bottled or fountain version of that product. This is because the bottlers do all of their processing at ambient temperature, and add only non‐sensitive ingredients (carbonated water, sweetener, acidulants, and preservatives).” But he quoted Rabbi Brikman who noticed that although Dr. Pepper/7UP syrups are certified by the OK, many of their BIB (bag in box) products bore the certification of a lesser‐known Va’ad or no hashgacha at all. The investigation found that of the 17 “packaging” facilities used by Dr. Pepper/7UP to create the BIB’s, only five are certified. This in itself was not terribly significant since all ingredients added by these packagers are not kosher‐sensitive (as noted), but as part of this inquiry it came to light that some heat is used in these plants. Even Pepsi and Coke who are kosher in most cases anywhere in the world may have product lines that do not adhere to the same standards for their core products. For example, there is hashgacha on the corporate Pepsi locations where the concentrates/flavors are produced, but not every bottling facility is certified. The new KickStart line of products contains white grape juice concentrate as a sweetener. The grape juice included in the concentrate made at the corporate factory is overseen by Ches‐K and is known to be kosher. However, additional grape juice is added at the bottling facilities and those facilities are not kosher certified. The corporate office orders the grape juice used in those facilities and it is ordered as kosher, but there is no Mashgiach visiting to ensure that, in fact, they receive the kosher product. Accordingly, KickStart products are not recommended unless there is hashgacha all the way through to the bottling facility. Pepsi concentrates/flavors used in the United States, Canada, and South America (other than Venezuela) all comes from the New York facility which is certified. Similarly, the Pepsi concentrate/flavor used in Europe, Russia, New Zealand, and Australia are known to come from kosher facilities. [This includes all Cola, orange, and 7UP flavors, but not other products sold by the Pepsi Company in those countries.]