Saturday, June 16, 2007


The London Beth Din has issued a warning to shoppers that onions are becoming increasingly prone to insect infestation and therefore may not be kosher.

The announcement came on the heels of a ruling by the Chief Rabbi of the orthodox Bnei Brak community in Israel. Rabbi Moshe Leib Landau advised Israeli consumers to be aware that most locally produced onions were riddled with tiny bugs.

He said: “Until now the onions that were in stores here under rabbinical supervision were imported from abroad. “Very few batches of onions from Israel were found clean of insects. Rabbi Landau concluded: "Only those batches of onions that were found clean are in the stores under our supervision. But the public should still check on their own." Following the alert from Bnei Barak, a spokesman for the London Beth Din Kashrut Division said his team has been monitoring the situation in this country for six months.

Speaking exclusively to TJ, he said: “We have found these small white/grey insects which appear as dots around one millimetre in diameter are more prevalent in Spanish onions than the English variety and appears to be worse in a double onion.“These insects can be found as deep as the core of the onion and we would advise all members of the public to be vigilant with all types.

”Until now, onions have generally been assumed to be unaffected by major insect contamination. A kashrut expert explained: “The Torah tells us we must check all vegetables that are prone to infestation, but we don’t have to check those that aren’t. The onion has always fallen into the latter category.”He added: “This could now lead to rabbis advising people to check all their onions down to the core. It will add an extra burden to people preparing meals.

“Basically, before the Beth Din can announce anything, it must monitor it. They can’t just send out a scare – it could just be a seasonal thing or a temporary glitch.“The only sure way for a consumer to catch something is by peeling the onion leaf by leaf. But if you just cut through the onion you won’t necessarily see anything.”Rabbis throughout the UK are now expected to make their own rulings following the news. Consumers have been advised to contact their local rabbis for further information. Noson Gluck, owner of Fruit of Eden green grocers in Edgware, said: “It’s not just onions, potatoes today also have insects. This is occurring in more and more vegetables. This is why I don’t get Spanish onions. I use Chilean ones.

”Resident TJ cookery expert Denise Phillips said: “Onions are a very useful seasoning so, if possible, I wouldn’t cut them out completely. They are used in a lot of dishes, such as cholent, fish cakes, meatballs, chopped liver, egg and onions and all types of soups.”She advised concerned consumers to check their onions as closely as possible and wash them thoroughly with salt water before using them.

This latest warning from the London Beth Din follows an alert earlier this year over the kosher credentials of strawberries. The Kedassia kashrut authority issued an emergency ban on the fruit in March after two incidents where strawberries were passed by their supervisors at public events but were subsequently found to be contaminated with insects. Unlike onions, however, the summer fruit is notoriously susceptibleto infestation.

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