A common Kashrus Dilemma?
The machines were running almost 24/6 at Mandel’s Matzah Factory. In the months before Pesach, tons of matzah were being produced.
One day, the factory mashgiach (kashrus supervisor) received a recall notice regarding a certain shipment of flour, about which there was a serious kashrus question. He checked the code and realized a large number of runs had already been made with the questionable flour.
Immediately upon hearing this, the mashgiach halted the production. “There was a recall notice on the flour we’ve been using,” he notified Mr. Mandel.
The mashgiach then contacted his superior at the supervising kashrus agency. “There is an urgent kashrus question at Mandel’s Matzah Factory,” he said. “There was a recall notice on the flour we’ve been using. We’ve already produced over a ton of matzah from that flour shipment.”
The halachic advisory board convened. After a tense hour of debate, they ruled that the matzos were permitted b’dieved (de facto) based on a combination of lenient opinions, in consideration of the great potential loss (hefsed merubeh). However, they prohibited baking any more matzos with that shipment of flour.
The mashgiach notified Mr. Mandel of the ruling. He breathed a sigh of relief.
“There is one other issue,” added the mashgiach, “beyond the realm of our supervision.”
“What is that?” asked Mr. Mandel.
“The label on the boxes of matzah state that they are produced under the strict standards of our kashrus supervision,” replied the mashgiach. “Given that there is a serious question about these matzos, which were permitted based only in consideration of hefsed merubeh, how can they be sold without alerting the consumer that they are not on the expected level of kashrus?”
“If I notify people, nobody will buy the matzos!” exclaimed Mr. Mandel. “Once the halachic advisory panel ruled leniently, why can’t I sell the matzos regularly?”
“There may be a concern of defective merchandise, since these matzos do not meet the expected halachic standards of the consumers,” said the mashgiach. “But, as I said, that is beyond the scope of my responsibilities.”
“Who can I contact about this?” asked Mr. Mandel.
“I suggest that you speak with Rabbi Dayan about it,” said the mashgiach. “This question is right up his alley.”
“Will do,” said Mr. Mandel. He returned to the office and called Rabbi Dayan.
“We had a serious halachic question about the flour used in some of our matzos.” Mr. Mandel told Rabbi Dayan. The supervising kashrus agency allowed them de facto, on account of the great potential loss. Is there need to inform the consumers of the questionable status?”
“The Chasam Sofer [O.C. #65] addresses a similar question,” Rabbi Dayan replied. “He writes that wine which was permitted due to hefsed merubeh is allowed only to the owner and his household, who will suffer the loss if it cannot be used. Why should others get involved and buy from him, though?
He further writes that it is almost certain that the owner must inform others; if he did not, it may be considered defective merchandise which could annul the sale. However, if the problem was widespread and the wine is needed for the masses, it is permitted to all, except for those who are known to be scrupulous.” (Pischei Teshuvah Y.D. 31:2)
“Many other achronim, however, are more lenient,” continued Rabbi Dayan. “Beis Shlomo [Y.D. 188] and Divrei Malkiel [3:90] prove from numerous sources that something permitted to the one who asked the question is permitted to all. Furthermore, consumers know that kashrus organizations sometimes rely on lenient opinions on account of hefsed merubeh.
Thus, the common practice is not to inform the consumers. Nonetheless, if a certain customer is extremely scrupulous and would not be lenient even for his own hefsed merubah, the seller should inform him; otherwise, that customer would have a claim of mekach ta’us.” (See Maharsham, Da’as Torah, Y.D 29:intro. and Misphat Shalom C.M. 232:12.)
“Where does this leave us?” asked Mr. Mandel.
“The matzah can be sold normally at the discretion of the halachic advisory of the supervising agency,” concluded Rabbi Dayan. “However, it is preferable that these runs not be shipped to areas where there is a large concentration of people scrupulous about eating only mehadrin.” (See Hilchos Mishpat, Ona’ah 228:6; Pischei Choshen, Geneivah 12:52.)