Kashrus Alert: The Return Of The Evil Weevils In Rice & Barley

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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.

{Matzav.com}

10 COMMENTS

  1. “Double bag your barley, rice & flour & keep it sealed in a zip lock bag or hard plastic container.”?!?!?

    If the insects are coming from eggs already laid in the product, why would it help to bag it?!?

    I learned the hard way. I stored barley in ziplock bags in a storage room. (This was in the days when we had to store for the yoshon season). After noticing our home infested with worms and moths, we had an an exterminator trace it down to our barley. There were holes in the ziplock bags which the worms that hatched inside the barley ate through and came out. The exterminator explained to us this is common with seniors who store cereal for months in an airtight container, only to find beetles in the container.

    The exterminator advised us to freeze the barley for at least 24 hours. This will kill any larvae in the barley. Then it can be bagged in ziplock bags to prevent new infestation from sneaking in. We have been doing this with our barley, flour, and the like and have not had a problem since.

    And one more point: The recent barley infestation was not on an old expired, or almost expired product. I personally bought two bags of the now recalled barley (before the recall). The dates were fine, not near expiration. I checked the barley as I always do the day I bought them, and they were infested.

    Maybe the Kashrus organizations should change the way they allow companies to date their products. Maybe 2 or 3 year shelf life is too long!

    • Thank you for the info. We’ve had meal moths and caterpillars for years (!!!) in our house and just can’t seem to get rid of them despite regularly checking cereal and grain storage areas. It’s almost impossible to keep a spotless crumb-free house when there are kids and these bugs are somehow finding sustenance despite our best efforts. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

    • Deep freezing for three days, and presumably a bit longer in a regular freezer, will kill the critters, BUT they are still ossur, since they are clearly (dead) bugs. After a year, they will have disintegrated to nothing. Therefore, freeze the grains and legumes, seal them well (no need for cold storage), mark the date and after a year they will be permissible without further checking.

      • The above assumption about freezing killing the critters is correct, however, if you keep them frozen, they are whole and therefore forbidden. The next step is to hermetically seal them (as in Tupperware) and leave them for a year, which renders them nothing, hence no longer forbidden.

  2. Could someone clarify the point mentioned by the first poster. If the eggs are already in there how does keeping it in a cool place help – are the eggs kosher?

  3. NotsoSimple – Thanks for the tip on freezing the grains before storage. I have had problems in the past and this looks like a good preventive. If you prefer natural foods keeping the bugs at bay is something you have to be vigilant about. Like all things in life, there is a tradeoff.

  4. To Bshtei_Einayim:

    When you buy the fresh product in the store, the larvae is not see-able (nireh l’aynayim). They are simply too small to see. Therefore they are not prohibited. If frozen at that point, they will die and not grow or turn into worms, bugs, or moths.

  5. “Visible” means something that is visible to the naked eye, but may require magnification to determine whether it is simply dirt or (part of) an insect. Someone who has gained expertise will be able to determine without magnification (and also which type of insect!).

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