Recently, the OU has received complaints from consumers about high levels of infestation in barley and rice and other grain products. Many of these complaints have revealed that the affected products were beyond or close to their expiration dates.
The problem? Rabbi Moshe Zywica of the OU explained the issue to Matzav.com: “While certified packers sift all incoming products such as grain and flour etc., the sifting process does not detect the microscopic eggs which are laid in the kernels. furthermore, eggs are laid individually in cavities that the female drills in the grain kernels. Cavities are sealed by a waxy plug, which the female secretes. Eggs incubate for about 4-14 days before hatching, depending on temperature and humidity. One larva develops in each infested kernel. Feeding larvae excavate a tunnel and may keep feeding until only the hull remains. Females usually lay around 150 eggs, and up to 300 eggs. In warm conditions, the life cycle can be completed within 4-6 weeks, but this can last up to 21 weeks in the winter. As mentioned, storage in hot, humid conditions can result in hundreds of eggs hatching in a short period of time. This type of infestation is most common during July and August, but once affected grains are stored, it can occur year round.
So what does the OU do about this? The OU recommends that packers store their grains in cool places. Furthermore, upon receiving reports of infestation, the OU investigates and will trace the problem back to where it originated from. The OU will then post an alert on the OU website about which product and which lot numbers are affected. Note that not every bag in the lot is infested, and if no tell-tale signs of infestation are present, the product may be used.
What the consumer can do:
-Keep your rice, barley, flour etc. in a cool place (if small quantities its best to keep it in the freezer).
-Double bag your barley, rice & flour & keep it sealed in a zip lock bag or hard plastic container.
-Do not use such product when close or beyond its expiration date.
Stay with Matzav for alerts about such products.
The OU recommends checking your rice and barley over a white paper plate before using it. Alternatively, you can soak it in water and detect if any critters float to the top.