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5775-2015 Passover Guide
|Plus: Kosher Marijuana, What's Inside These Pills?, Kosher Lawsuits, Apples From New England|
Kosher-Certified Medical Marijuana -Medical marijuana (cannabis) is making the news lately, but what is really new is that the “OU” is seriously interested in certifying it as kosher. Many pharmaceuticals have become kosher-certified. Will marijuana be the next one? Rabbi Moshe Elefant, COO of the Orthodox Union’s kosher certification agency, has reported holding “preliminary discussions” with several companies interested in obtaining a kosher certification for medical marijuana. One is a company in Colorado, a state where recreational marijuana is legal.
The Current Situation: Presently, there is a wave of interest in legalizing marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes. Marijuana has been shown to alleviate pain, anxiety, appetite loss and nausea in patients suffering from a range of diseases including HIV/AIDS, cancer and multiple sclerosis. Medical marijuana is already legal in nearly half of U.S. states. Three states have even legalized recreational marijuana use. Israel is a world leader in medical marijuana. With more than 11,000 people licensed to receive the medicinal form of the drug, patients in Israel can already buy kosher-certified products. Colorado State Representative Jared Polis and Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer have introduced two bills on the federal level that would legalize and tax retail cannabis. Polis' federal “Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act” would remove cannabis from the Schedule of Controlled Substances and would leave all regulation rights to the state government. It would not force any states to legalize marijuana, but it would provide the federal regulatory framework for the states that do. Blumenauer's “Marijuana Tax Revenue Act” would impose a federal excise tax on retail cannabis sales, as well as an occupational tax for cannabis businesses. (Cannabis is the name of the plant that we call marijuana.) In Alaska, under a revised version of Senate Bill 30 (House Bill 79), cannabis would no longer be considered a controlled substance. On February 24th, recreational cannabis became officially legal making that state the third to permit recreational use. Connecticut has a medical marijuana program, limited to patients 18 years of age and older. House Bill 5892 would lower the age limit and expand the number of plants allowed for home cultivation. Other states have decreased the fines for trafficking in the sale of marijuana and permitted the medicinal use, but so far are holding the line on recreational use of marijuana.
And, in New York...Some companies plan to start selling legal, edible marijuana products that are certified kosher for medical purposes. The program should be in effect in New York next year if these companies are selected to grow, manufacture and distribute state-approved medical marijuana under the Compassionate Care Act signed last year by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The act lets people with debilitating ailments obtain medical marijuana, but bars them from smoking it. Because of marijuana’s clear medical benefits, and the national interest in medical marijuana, the Orthodox Union, which has rejected kosher certification requests from cigarette and e-cigarette manufacturers on health grounds, “would not have a problem certifying” medical marijuana, Rabbi Elefant said.
Why Kosher Marijuana? In many of the states which allow medicinal use of marijuana, smoking it is still prohibited. Instead, under regulations proposed by the state Health Department, manufacturers will have to convert their weed into liquid or oil preparations, capsules or “any other form and route of administration approved by the [health] commissioner.” For the very young or for those who cannot ingest the drug, it is administered intravenously. As a plant, marijuana doesn’t have to be certified kosher, but when it comes to edibles, the other ingredients and the processing are of kosher concern. Cannabis is just a leaf, and, like fruits and vegetables, may have no need for kosher certification. But everything else that goes into making the marijuana edibles determines their kosher status. To be a kosher product, ingredients must be guaranteed kosher from their original source. We need a kosher plant to avoid common equipment, ingredient mix-ups, etc. And, we need to have kosher supervision to ensure that kosher standards are being met. Kosher or not, we hope than no Jews will have the need for this drug.
Herbal Supplements: What’s Really Inside These Pills? -The New York State attorney general’s office accused four major retailers of selling fraudulent and potentially dangerous herbal supplements, and demanded that they remove the products from their shelves. Tests analyzing the DNA bar coding which were conducted on the top-selling store brands of herbal supplements at four national retailers (Walmart, Target, GNC and Walgreens) revealed that four out of five of the products did not contain any of the herbs on their labels. Instead, cheap fillers was all the pills contained. Some substances in the pills could be dangerous to those with allergies. This was the first time that a law enforcement agency threatened the biggest retail and drugstore chains with legal action for selling what the FDA said were deliberately misleading herbal products. Walmart’s ginkgo biloba, a Chinese plant promoted as a memory enhancer, contained little more than powdered radish, houseplants and wheat, while the label claimed that the product was wheat-free and gluten-free. Three out of six herbal products at Target (ginkgo biloba, valerian root and St. John’s wort) tested negative for the herbs on their labels. At GNC, pills contained unlisted ingredients such as powdered legumes, including peanuts and soybeans, a hazard for people with allergies. “Mislabeling, contamination and false advertising are illegal,” said Eric T. Schneiderman, the state attorney general. “They also pose unacceptable risks to New York families — especially those with allergies to hidden ingredients.” A 2013 article in the New York Times raised questions about widespread labeling fraud in the supplement industry. The University of Guelph (Canada) discovered that as many as a third of herbal supplements tested contained only cheap fillers and not the plants listed on their labels. What were the responses of the retailers? Walgreens said it would remove the products from its shelves nationwide, even though only New York State had demanded it. Walmart said it would reach out to the suppliers of its supplements “and take appropriate action.” GNC said that it stood behind the quality and purity of its store brand supplements. Target did not respond to requests for comment. Under a 1994 federal law, supplements are exempt from the F.D.A.’s strict approval process for prescription drugs, which requires reviews of a product’s safety and effectiveness before it goes to market. The law’s sponsor, Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, fought against a proposed amendment in 2012 that would have required supplement makers to register their products with the F.D.A. and provide details about their ingredients. In December, an infant at a Connecticut hospital died when doctors gave the child a popular probiotic supplement that was later found to be contaminated with yeast. R. D. Inc. is an importer and distributor of botanicals, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, nutritional materials, oil powders, fruit powders and flavors. It also provides proprietary blending and formulations. The company is Jewish-owned. Recently, the owner pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in relation to a scheme in which he directed the sale of diluted and adulterated dietary ingredients and supplements sold by his company. He also agreed to forfeit more than $1 million in profits he made from the scheme. This man cheated his customers for four years and he lied to the Food and Drug Administration For four years R. D. Inc.’s owner instructed his employees to add “fillers,” including maltodextrin, viobin cocoa replacer and rice flours to the dietary ingredients and supplements packaged for, and sold to R. D.’s customers. They were added without customer consent or knowledge. He also told his employees not to list the “fillers” as ingredients on the certificates of analysis (COAs) issued to its customers as proof of the identity of the ingredients contained in the products. In addition, the owner directed R. D. Inc.’s employees to create COAs that falsely certify that certain of R.D.’s products were kosher or organic. Finally, during the FDA inspection, he instructed his workers to alter a document before providing it to the FDA. The conspiracy charge carries a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine, or twice the gain or loss caused by the offense. So, there you have it. The big fish and the small ones, all seem have among them those who flaunt the law.
Shopping for Pesach Wines -As Pesach approaches, many families are already beginning their Seder preparations. One of the main parts of the Seder is, of course, the "four cups." Choosing which wine to use for this mitzva is not always a simple matter. This excerpt from Sasson Gelb's classic article has been updated for Passover 5775.
Wine Versus Grape Juice
Red wine is preferred for the four cups. If white wine is used and some red wine is available, the red wine should be mixed in to give the white wine a red color, provided the flavor will not be spoiled. The red wine should preferably be poured first and then the white wine added to it to avoid the melacha of dyeing (tz'viah), which is prohibited on Shabbos and Yom Tov. Although mixing colored foods is normally permitted, if the mixture is made purely for the purpose of coloring, this leniency does not apply, according to some poskim. A person should make an effort to drink wine, even if it causes slight discomfort or a headache. However, if, for serious health reasons, a person is unable to drink wine or even grape juice, or if wine and grape juice are not available, a drink which is "chamar medina" may be used. Chamar medina, literally “local beverage,” is a beverage which is drunk not to quench thirst, but rather as a social beverage (e.g. hot tea, coffee, or alcoholic drinks). Water and soda are not chamar medina. The use of milk as a chamar medina is questionable.
What Constitutes “Cooked” Wine?
Uncooked wine is preferable to wine which has been cooked (mevushal), since, halachically, cooking alters the wine's properties. Therefore, for the four cups and for Kiddush on Shabbos and Yom Tov, it is preferable to use uncooked wine. There are two well-known opinions about the temperature at which wine becomes mevushal. According to Harav Moshe Feinstein, zt"l, wine is considered mevushal at 165-175° F. The Tzelemer Rav, zt"l, considered wine to be mevushal at 190° F. This difference of opinion leads to differences in halacha. According to Rav Feinstein, some grape juices are considered cooked because they are pasteurized at about 175°. However, according to the Tzelemer Rav, grape juice is not considered mevushal. Similarly, according to the Tzelemer Rav, some wines that are labeled "mevushal" may indeed not be mevushal, unless the cooking temperature reached 190° F (which is rare). Following the Tzelemer Rav's opinion, wine that has not been cooked to 190°, as well as grape juice, may be used for Kiddush and the arba kosos even by the most stringent. The Tzelemer Rav did not hold that the beverage used for the arba kosos must be intoxicating. (Rav Feinstein did require intoxicating wine for the four cups.) One who follows the opinion of the Tzelemer Rav must be careful concerning nesech with wine which others deem mevushal. (Nesech is the prohibition against a non-Jew or non-observant Jew handling uncooked wine or uncooked grape juice.) An additional consideration is that many food products may contain wine and most supervising organizations follow the opinion of Harav Feinstein of the lower temperature at which wine is considered mevushal. Therefore, these foods are not permitted for those who follow the opinion of the Tzelemer Rav. Most imported wines are pasteurized; a number of wine companies, including Schapiro's and Carmel, produce only pasteurized wines. Other companies produce both cooked and uncooked wines. Unless it states Mevushal on the wine, consider it not cooked.
The Method of Pasteurizing
A natural red concord can be produced by two methods. One way is to squeeze the grapes and then ferment the juice together with the peels. The red color from the peels will leach into the liquid during fermentation and color the wine red. The other method, which is faster, is to heat the entire grape. The heat releases the skin color, which penetrates into the pulp of the grape. For coloring purposes, the grapes are heated to only 120° F, which according to all opinions is not considered mevushal. There is also an opinion that even if the grapes would be heated to 190° F, the wine produced would still not be considered mevushal. This opinion holds that for wine to be considered mevushal, the wine itself, rather than the grape pulp, has to be cooked. [Editor’s Note: Many halachic authorities feel that even with so-called “cooked wine,” done through pasteurizing today, one should not allow a non-Jew to pour the wine, as the pasteurization process may not fulfill the requirements of cooked wine. (Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l, (Minchos Shlomo 25); Rav Shmuel Halevi Wosner, shlita, (Shevet Halevi 2:51); Rav Yosef Sholom Elyoshov, zt”l, (Nesivos Kashrus 5752, p.13); Dayan Yitzchok Weiss, zt”l (Minchos Yitzchok 7:61). Rav Ovadiah Yosef, zt”l, (Yabiah Omer 8: YD 15) praises those who are strict about this matter.] There are some wines on the market which are produced from wine concentrate. Although the concentrate itself is cooked, it may not be considered mevushal. Because the concentrate is produced under vacuum pressure, the water evaporates at a much lower temperature than under normal cooking conditions. In fact, the wine or juice is heated to only 110-120° F to produce the concentrate.
Water & Sugar Added
Some people follow a stringency of not using any wine that contains added sugar or water. Halachically, if there are less than six parts of water or sugar to one part of wine, the mixture is still considered wine. However, since many producers already add water or sugar to their wines, it is questionable how much more water may be added. In fact, many poskim caution against adding any water at all to commercially produced wine. Juice from freshly pressed grapes contains from 12% to 24% sugar. Grapes grown in New York State tend to have lower sugar levels (16% on average), while grapes from California and Eretz Yisroel tend to have a higher sugar level. New York State law allows wine producers to use up to 34% water and sugar in wines which are produced in the State. Because New York grapes are highly acidic, many producers do make use of the 34% maximum allowed by law. Some wine makers may add sugar even to "naturally sweet" wines. Particularly in New York State, grapes are often harvested before they attain maximum maturity and sweetness. Since the grapes may not be sweet enough to yield the desired alcohol content, sugar is added to compensate. Since the sugar is added not to sweeten the wine, but rather as a fermenting agent, legally, the wine may be labeled “naturally sweet” and halachically it may, according to some poskim, be considered wine without sugar.
Kedem Grape Juice is made from freshly squeezed grapes. Grape concentrate is sometimes added, when needed, to sweeten the juice. The proportion of concentrate can vary from five to ten percent, depending on the quality of the juice. Their wines, if sweetened, generally contain sugar, not grape concentrate. Kedem Grape Juices come in three categories: 1. Those stating mevushal are accepted as mevushal by the “OU” and the Tzelemer Rav, zt”l. 2. Those stating on the label not mevushal are accepted by all as not mevushal. 3. Those that do not state on the label mevushal or not mevushal A) according to the Tzelemer Rav, zt”l are considered not mevushal B) according to Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l and the “OU” are considered mevushal. In addition, all Kedem Sparkling Grape Juices are mevushal. All Kedem Grape Juice that is 32 oz., 64 oz., or 96 oz. bottled in plastic and the 22 oz. and 6.3 oz. juice bottled in glass are mevushal according to all opinions. The Kedem Grape Juice bottled in the 1.5 liter (50.7 oz.) glass bottle is not mevushal according to all opinions. (See Orach Chaim 272;8.). In addition, all Kedem Sparkling Grape Juices are mevushal. Kesser Mendees and Crown Grape Juices have no sugar, water or concentrates added; they are mevushal according to Rav Feinstein, but not according to the Tzelemer Rav.
Not all Manischewitz wines are Kosher for Passover. Certain wines or wine products contain flavors or corn sweeteners. Therefore, only those bearing an “OU” and "Kosher for Passover", or “OU-P”, are Kosher for Pesach. The same varieties come in both Pesach and non-Pesach types, so make sure to check each label. All Manischewitz wines are mevushal. Some Manischewitz wines are Shehakol.
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