March 4, 2013

Williamsburg Chasidim Prefer Israeli Coke but Not Diet Coke on Passover

BROOKLYN, NY — A major Chasidic rabbi in Williamsburg routinely offers his followers Coca Cola products but not the Coke products manufactured in the US. The Chasidim rely on the certification of Rabbi Yehuda Leib Landau of Bnei Brak, who does not certify Diet Coke on Passover, because of his issues with the sweeteners. The products are instead certified by the Chief Rabbinate of Tel Aviv, which is why the Williamsburg rabbi bars the Israeli Diet Coke on Passover. Rabbi Landau does, however, certify the regular Coca Cola for Passover. 

It is widely believed in Israel that Rabbi Landau is one of the few people on earth that knows the exact ingredients of Coca Cola. Rabbi Landau’s certification on Diet Coke bottles clearly states that he does not certify the Diet Coke for Passover. Although Coke generally does not condone import of its products from country to country, it has apparently made an exception for its Israeli products under Rabbi Landau. A leading rabbi told KosherToday that the switch of certifications on Diet Coke is widely known amongst most Israeli consumers who covet Rabbi Landau’s hechsher, but it has incensed some Diet Coke customers who claim they were unaware of the change despite the disclaimer on the product.

In the US, Coca-Cola is certified by the Orthodox Union (OU) and most bottlers in the US produce a number of Coke products including Diet Coke for Passover. Last year, there was a major shortage of the Passover Coke in California when Coke directed its suppliers to change the way they manufacture caramel to reduce levels of the chemical 4-methylimidazole, or 4-MEI, which California has listed as a carcinogen. Coca-Cola products in Illinois are certified as Kosher for Passover by the CRC (Chicago Rabbinical Council). This year some of the caps designated for the CRC supervised production were mistakenly delivered to the East Coast. But the OU confirmed that products available in the East Coast either with OU-P or CRC-P13 on Yellow Caps has been produced under the strict Passover supervision of the Orthodox Union and the products are Kosher for Passover.