By Rabbi Dovid Heber, Star-K Kashrus Administrator
One of the profound aspects of our Torah Hakdosha is the ability for anyone, regardless of age or wisdom, to appreciate the Torah on his or her own level. For example, the posuk “B’reishis Barah Elokim” is studied by the greatest Torah scholars, as well as first grade children. This concept is also applicable to Hilchos Brochos. To a first grader studying for a Brochos Bee, or a Talmudic scholar studying Perek Kaitzad Mevorchim in Masechta Brochos, learning about brochos can be fascinating.
A daily and extremely relevant application of this principle lies in the area of brochos on breakfast cereals. What makes determining the correct brochos for these products so complicated? Technological advances in food manufacturing have had a great impact on Hilchos Brochos. A slight difference in production, or even in the manufacturer’s intention of the use of ingredients, can change the brocha. As will be explained, cereals such as puffed wheat or corn flakes produced by different companies may look the same to the consumer. However, they may be manufactured differently, thereby changing the brocha recited. Often, this background information is not available to the consumer; hence, the confusion and intrigue in discovering what goes on “behind the scenes” and its impact on Hilchos Brochos.
To ensure the highest Kashrus standards, Star-K Kosher Certification inspects many food plants throughout the world. In doing so, the Star-K has the opportunity to either see or discuss manufacturing procedures that have a direct impact on the brochos of various food items. The following information is what has been obtained by Kashrus professionals or heard from company personnel, and then presented to the Star-K Rabbinic Administrator, Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, shlita, for his Halachic insights and psak halacha.
I. Chameishes Minei Dagan Cereals
Special halachic status has been given to products coming from chameishes minei dagan, the five special grains: wheat, spelt, barley, oats, and rye.1 When these grains are ground up, mixed with water, and baked into cake, cookies, crackers and other pas haba’ah b’kisnin products, the brocha is Mezonos and the brocha achrona is Al Hamichya. If one is koveya seudah (eats enough to constitute a meal), the brocha is Hamotzi and one must recite Birchas Hamazon.2 One of the definitions of pas haba’ah b’kisnin is that the dough is baked into a hardened crispy product. Products such as pretzels and Post Grape Nuts cereal3are included in this category of pas haba’ah b’kisnin, and their brocha is Mezonos. The brocha on Cheerios, Wheaties, and Shredded Wheat cereals is also Mezonos, and the brocha achrona is Al Hamichya.
In the above cases, the chameishes minei dagan is broken down. However, if the grains remain whole and are simply roasted, they are no different from any other variety of produce which grows from the ground (e.g., corn), and the brocha is Hoadama.4 What this means is as follows: The brocha on unprocessed and slightly processed (e.g., toasted whole) wheat or oats is Hoadama. The brocha on fully processed wheat and oats (e.g., flour and water that is baked) is Mezonos. The question the poskim address is — at what point are the wheat and oats considered processed enough to recite a Mezonos?5
To understand this, it is important to know the following: Wheat has four parts-the endosperm, bran germ and husk.. Endosperm makes up the majority of the kernel and is the primary source of flour, bread and cake. The husk, wheat’s outer shell, comes off easily by threshing. The remaining kernel (with endosperm, germ and bran) is called “whole wheat.”
If the whole wheat is puffed, the brocha remains Hoadama. An example of this is Kashi 7 Whole Grain Puffs.6 This is a unique cereal which includes chameishes minei dagan with all the bran remaining on the kernels. Similarly, Go Lean is made up of Kashi puffed grains7; hence, the brocha is Hoadama.8
The process for most other puffed wheat is to first remove bran from the kernel through a process known as pearling. In this process, some endosperm may also incidentally be removed. The kernel is then placed into a pressurized heated chamber and steamed. The moisture rushes out of the kernel, thereby “popping” it.
There are different opinions as to which brocha is recited. Some opinions say this is processed enough to become Mezonos. This psak is based on the Mishnah Brura which says one can recite a Mezonos on pearled barley,9 a product that is similar to puffed wheat.10 Others are of the opinion that regular puffed wheat is not processed enough, and the brocha is Hoadama. In order to be Mezonos, the product must be a “maaseh kedeira“, similar to a bowl of oatmeal in which the grains stick together. In puffed wheat this does not occur, hence the brocha is Hoadama.11
L’halacha, puffed wheat should ideally be eaten in the middle of a bread meal. Otherwise, Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l,12 says one can recite either a Mezonos or Hoadama. Rav Moshe also says the brocha achrona on puffed wheat is Borei Nefashos.13 This halacha applies also to Kellogg’s Honey Smacks and Post Golden Crisp.14
Wheat germ is the “embryo” of the kernel. It is heated to deactivate enzymes which would allow sprouting. It is generally eaten with other foods and would usually be tofel, secondary to the other ingredients in the product. If one eats wheat germ by itself the brocha is Hoadama, since the heating is only applied to deactivate the enzymes, not to cook the germ.15 It is not processed enough to become Mezonos; hence, the brocha remains Hoadama.
II. Non-Chameishes Minei Dagan Cereals The brocha on produce that grows from the ground is Borei P’ri Hoadama. For example, the brocha on corn and potatoes is Hoadama. However, if the produce is ground into flour (i.e. it is no longer recognizable), and is not from the five special types of grain, the brocha becomes Shehakol. Therefore, the brocha on corn chips (made from corn flour) and cake made from potato starch is Shehakol.18 The brocha achrona on all non-chameishes minei dagan products is Borei Nefashos.
Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt’l, explains19 if the grain has not been ground down to flour, but only popped (e.g., popcorn, or the grit is rolled into corn flakes), it retains its Hoadama status. Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and Frosted Flakes cereal are made from recognizable corn pieces that are not ground into flour, so the brocha is Hoadama. Corn Chex is also made from recognizable corn pieces.20 However, General Mills Country Corn Flakes is made from corn flour; therefore, its brocha is Shehakol.
Some companies and private label manufacturers produce corn flakes from small pieces of corn known as “grits”, others use corn flour extruded into corn pellets. If the cereal lists corn flour, the product has been ground and the brocha is Shehakol (if wheat and oat flour are not present). If the cereal lists corn or milled corn, it may be a whole grain product and the brocha is Hoadama, or it may be ground and the brocha is Shehakol.21 When one is in doubt and cannot determine which type of corn ingredient is used, a Shehakol should be recited.
Kellogg’s Corn Pops is manufactured differently in various facilities worldwide. In the United States, the corn is not ground into flour, and corn pieces are used; therefore, the brocha is Hoadama. In Canada, the corn is first ground into flour, and the brocha is Shehakol.
Rice is unique, as its brocha is Mezonos and its brocha achrona is Borei
Nefashos.22 This includes processed rice products, such as Kellogg’s Rice Krispies and Post Fruity Pebbles. It also includes products manufactured from rice flour.
III. Ikkur V’Tofel-Mixtures of Primary and Secondary Ingredients
In general, when there is a mixture of foods with different brochos, one determines the main purpose for eating this food and recites the brocha of that ingredient. This ingredient is known as the ikkur. For example, if one eats a fruit salad with 60% apples and 40% watermelon mixed together, only a Ho’etz is recited. The watermelon is tafel (secondary) to the Ho’etz (the ikkur) and, therefore, Hoadama is not recited.
Similarly, if the main ingredient of a cereal is oat or wheat flour the brocha is Mezonos, and the other ingredients are tafel. Chameishes minei dagan have a special status: Even if a non-chameishes minei dagan ingredient (e.g., corn flour) is the first ingredient and chameishes minei dagan (e.g., oat flour) is a “secondary” ingredient, under certain conditions, the chameishes minei dagan is still considered the ikkur and the brocha is Mezonos. This is true even though the chameishes minei dagan is not the ingredient with the highest percentage.
The guidelines are as follows: If the chameishes minei dagan Mezonos ingredient is added l’taam, as an integral part of the cereal or for its own flavor, even though it is second or third in ingredient amount, the brocha is Mezonos.23 An example of this is Kellogg’s Apple Jacks.
Similarly, the brocha on Raisin Bran cereal is Mezonos, as the endosperm in the flakes is the ikkur ingredient. However, if the chameishes minei dagan is only l’davek – a binding agent for texture or consistency, or a flavoring component to enhance the primary corn ingredient only, the brocha is Shehakol. An example of this is Quaker Cap’n Crunch cereal.
This halacha is very relevant to cereals, as several list corn flour as a first ingredient and chameishes minei dagan, such as oat flour, wheat flour, or wheat gluten (the protein portion in wheat) as a second or third ingredient. Unfortunately, there is no way to tell if it is added l’taam or l’davek from the label.24 When there is doubt as to whether the oat flour listed as a secondary ingredient is l’taam or l’davek,and there is no way of determining which one it is, then one should recite a Shehakol and Borei Nefashos.25
Kellogg’s Crispix is half rice and half corn. Since it has no ikkur or tofel and no chameishes minei dagan component, two brochos are required. A Mezonos is recited, and then one eats from the darker rice side; then a Hoadama is recited on the lighter corn side and the cereal is eaten. The brocha achrona is Borei Nefashos.
Under normal circumstances, when eating cereal with milk, the cereal is the ikkur and the milk is the tafel; therefore, only one brocha is recited. This is true even if one finishes the cereal and there is a little leftover milk eaten alone – no brocha is recited on the milk.26 The same halacha applies when one eats cereal with raisins, bananas or strawberries. Under normal circumstances, a brocha is recited only on the cereal, not the fruit, since they are tafel.27
IV. Brocha Achrona If a Shehakol or Hoadama is recited on a cereal, the brocha achrona is Borei Nefashos. If a Mezonos is recited, the brocha achrona is Al Hamichya (except for rice cereals, where the brocha achrona is Borei Nefashos). To recite any brocha achrona, one must eat a k’zayis (1.27 fl. oz, 38 ml, the approximate volume of a golf ball) of cereal in the amount of time known as k’dei achilas pras – ideally within two minutes.28
One may calculate the entire amount of cereal eaten in deciding the brocha achrona. If one eats a k’zayis of a chameishes minei dagan Mezonos cereal, the brocha achrona is Al Hamichya,29 even though the actual wheat or oat content consumed may be less than a k’zayis.30 This is true only if the various ingredients are mixed and baked into a single entity.31 However, if a chameishes minei dagan cereal contains pieces upon which a Mezonos is recited and pieces upon which a different brocha is recited (when eaten without the chameishes minei dagan), one must eat a k’zayis of the Mezonos pieces to recite an Al Hamichya.32
V. Research It is obvious that for many cereals it is impossible to know the correct brocha, without first determining more information than is available on the box. In developing the Star-K Brochos List, we had to obtain answers to numerous detailed questions regarding the formulation and process of the ingredients and products. Follow up questions and on-site reviews were sometimes necessary. In a few cases, we discovered formula revisions or additional information that caused changes in the brocha of particular cereals.33
Undoubtedly, as companies continue to re-formulate cereals for better taste and more nutrition, one should not be surprised to find out that the brocha on one’s favorite cereal has changed.
In the z’chus of beginning the day with reciting the correct brochos, may Klal Yisroel be zoche to an abundance of much bracha v’hatzlacha.
1. Oats and wheat are the most commonly used chameishes minei dagan grains in cereals
2. For a full discussion and understanding of pas haba’ah b’kisnin, see Kashrus Kurrents Spring 2005.
3. Although this product has an intermediate doughy stage, it never obtains the full characteristics of bread. Therefore, it is pas haba’ah b’kisnin and the brocha is mezonos.
4. Shulchan Aruch OC 208:4. The Shulchan Aruch says such products should ideally be eaten during a bread meal, since there is a safek (doubt) as to which brocha achrona is recited. L’maaseh, if one eats the grain, the brocha achrona is Borei Nefashos.
5. See Shulchan Aruch and Mishnah Brura OC 208:2 and 208:4 for a full explanation of this issue.
6. This is a cereal manufactured by Kashi Co. and should not be confused with “kasha” (buckwheat). The brocha on kasha is Hoadama because it is not from the chameishes minei dagan.
7. See Footnote 23.
8. Ideally, they should only be eaten during a meal (see above Footnote 4).
9. Mishnah Brura 208:15.
10. Based on the Sefer Mkor Habracha 54. Additionally, Rav Heinemann explains the following svara: This product is now a “maaseh kedeira” because it has been processed into a form that is normally eaten. According to this svara, the brocha rishona is Mezonos and the brocha achrona is Al Hamichya.
11. Sefer V’zos Habrocha Chap. 12 as further explained in his Birur Halacha Siman 27:4 in the name of Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l. Since these grains are simply popped and do not stick together, the brocha is Hoadama. The brocha achrona is a safek and, therefore, the product should l’chatchila be eaten during a bread meal. If it is not eaten during a bread meal, the brocha achrona is Borei Nefashos.
12. Igros Moshe OC 4:45.
13. There is a svara to say that the brocha achrona is Al Hamichya (see Footnote 10).
14. It should be noted that some brands of granola cereals have similar halachic issues. Like puffed wheat, they are chameishes minei dagan products that are “partially processed” (i.e. heated but not broken down into flour). The same issues as to whether they have been processed enough to become a Mezonos apply. One would have to determine the exact process of each brand to determine which brocha rishona and achrona are recited. Kellogg’s Lowfat Granola cereal (with and without raisins) has a similar halachic status as puffed wheat. Therefore, a Hoadama or Mezonos may be recited and the brocha achrona is Borei Nefashos. However, General Mills Nature Valley Granola Bars and Quaker Granola Bars are processed enough to make their brocha rishona a Mezonos and brocha achrona Al Hamichya.
15. See Igros Moshe OC 4:46.
16. Igros Moshe EH 1:114. The “klipos” of the chameishes minei dagan refer to bran.
17. This product also contains a type of bran which contains endosperm. Nonetheless, the endosperm is tafel to the bran. However, Raisin Bran cereal consists of higher amounts of endosperm mixed with the bran product; hence, the brocha is Mezonos. This will be addressed in the Ikkur V’Tofel section.
18. The same is true of Pringles Potato Crisps, since they are produced from ground up potatoes that are no longer recognizable.
19. Choveres Torah V’horaah 5733.
20. Although the label states “corn meal” on Corn Chex, nonetheless, the brocha is Hoadama because it is produced from small pieces (still recognizable as corn) and not flour, in a way similar to the case discussed in Mishnah Brura 208:38 and Sha’ar Hatzion 208:42.
21. This is true if it does not contain additional wheat or oat ingredients – this will be addressed in the next section.
22. Shulchan Aruch OC 208:7
23. Sefer Pischei Halacha Hilchos Brachos Chap. 7 Footnote 32 states that according to the Mogen Avraham 208:7, chameishes minei dagan which is Hoadama (e.g., that was puffed without removing the bran) is also considered an ikkur even if it is not the first ingredient listed (as long as it is added l’taam). This is relevant to Kashi Go Lean and Good Friends cereals upon which a Hoadama is recited. For a discussion of this topic, see the entire footnote in Sefer Pischei Halacha.
24. If wheat starch is added, it is definitely l’davek and the brocha is Shehakol.
25. Licorice contains wheat flour added l’davek and,therefore, is Shehakol (unless the flour is listed as the first ingredient).
26. For a full discussion of this topic, including other cases of eating cereal with milk, see Igros Moshe OC 1:43 and Sefer Pischei Halacha 7:38.
27. See Sefer Pischei Halacha Chapter 7, Se’if 38 and Footnote 62 for a full discussion of different cases involving fruit added to cereal.
28. B’dieved, if one eats a k’zayis within four minutes, a bracha achrona may be recited. For a full discussion of this topic, see Kashrus Kurrents Summer 2005.
29. Regarding the brocha achrona on puffed wheat products, see above Section I.
30.The Mishnah Brura 208:48 says this is the “minhag ha’olam.” See also Igros Moshe OC 1:71.
31. For example, if one ate exactly a k’zayis of Cheerios, the “minhag ha’olam” is to recite an Al Hamichya because the oat flour, corn starch and sugar are all combined into each of the Cheerios. Similarly, one could recite an Al Hamichya when eating a k’zayis of Apple Jacks because the additional ingredients (e.g., sugar and corn flour) are baked into a single entity with the oat and wheat flour (i.e., with the chameishes minei dagan ingredients, which are considered the ikkur).
32. For example, if one ate exactly a k’zayis of Post Cranberry Almond Crunch, one recites a Mezonos but can not recite an Al Hamichya afterwards. Since the Mezonos pieces do not add up to a k’zayis, and the cranberries and almonds are not mitztaref to the wheat flakes, a Borei Nefashos is recited (see Mishnah Brura 210:1). If one ate exactly a k’zayis of Raisin Bran (i.e. chameishes minei dagan flakes and shivas haminim raisins), there is a question amongst the poskim whether a Borei Nefashos or may’ain shalosh is recited. For an explanation of this halacha, see Piskei Teshuvos 210:6. Of course, if one ate a k’zayis of Mezonos pieces of Post Cranberry Almond Crunch or Raisin Bran, an Al Hamichya is recited.
33. Please note the following cereals fall into this category: Honeycomb, French Toast Crunch, Crunchy Corn Bran, Honey Smacks, Golden Crisp and Kellogg’s Lowfat Granola.