The Matzav Rant: The “I Don’t Eat OU” Fallacy

Thursday February 11, 2010 12:22 PM - 38 Comments

kashrus-symbolsBy Shmuel Miskin, Matzav.com

I know we’ve discussed some very contentious issues recently in this column, but here’s another one that really gets me going. I may be using up my repertoire of pet peeves and might be running out of rants (awful!), but if these thoughts lead to productive discussion and change the way people think, then it is all worthwhile.

I recently had one of those discussions that make my hair stand on end. An individual whom I know somewhat met me at a local supermarket a few weeks ago. The topic of our discussion is irrelevant to this article, but when I said in response to a question he posed that he should purchase a certain item, he responded without hesitation, “My family is very makpid on kashrus. I don’t eat OU.”

Instinctively, I said, “What?”

He repeated his remark.

“That’s strange,” I said, looking at him quizzically.

Having been involved in kashrus on a limited basis and being apprised of various kashrus facts and fallacies, I wasn’t going to allow this opportunity to pass without capitalizing on setting the record straight.

“Why not?” I asked this person, who we’ll call Chaim.

“I only eat heimishe hashgachos,” he said matter-of-factly.

“Really?” I said. I then proceeded to list about 15 companies and items and asked Chaim if he would rely on them and consume them.

“Sure,” he said, explaining that these items have ‘heimishe hechsheirim.

“Do you know,” I asked him, “that every single one of the hashgachos and items I mentioned rely on the OU either for ingredients or even for the actual supervision?”

He shook his head no.

“Do you know anything about the OU?” I asked.

“Not really,” he muttered.

“Do you know that it is virtually impossible to purchase an item that doesn’t in some way rely on the OU for its hashgacha - directly or indirectly?”

He shook his head.

I then asked him about certain specific hashgachos and whether he consumes items under their supervision. Some he wasn’t sure about and others he answered in the affirmative.

“And in your native Boro Park,” I asked him, “which hashgachos did you and do you rely on?”

“Oh,” he responded, “in Boro Park, I would eat virtually anywhere.”

He saw my disappointed expression.

“What’s the matter?” he asked.

I said, “You claim not to eat OU, which I’ve showed you isn’t true by virtue of the products you do use, and yet you would eat in any store in your former community without knowing much about the hashgacha or the store?”

He shook his head yes.

“Does that make an ounce of sense?” I asked.

“It’s Boro Park,” he said.

“Boro Park, Shmoro Park,” I told him. “Do you know anything about the quality of the specific hechsher or what goes on in the establishment?”

He grimaced, like he was in pain.

“Would you eat in _____ (a fleishige establishment in Boro Park)?”

He said yes.

“Do you know that they don’t have a mashgiach temidi?” I asked.

He responded that he thinks he knew that, but that the owner is a “frum guy.”

“Is the owner always there?” I asked. “And do you think it is wise - or even correct - to rely on an owner for the kashrus of a store?”

He didn’t answer.

I asked him what he feels is preferable about a “heimishe hashgacha.”

His response was hard to understand, but I let that question go. He did repeat, however, that he is very makpid on kashrus. He listed about a dozen items that he does not eat for kashrus reasons.

Later in the conversation, I asked, “Out of curiosity, are you makpid on yoshon?”

“No,” he said.

“Do you know that according to many, if not most, poskim, yoshon is a de’Orasiah, even in chutz la’aretz? I am not judging anyone who is not makpid on yoshon,” I told him, “but you said that you are ‘very makpid on kashrus,’ so I would think you’d keep yoshon.”

He stood there.

“So you claim you are ‘very makpid on kashrus,’ yet you’d eat in any store - any store! - in Boro Park without much, if any, investigation. You’d eat in a fleishige establishment that does not have a mashgiach temidi (relying on the owner), you only eat ‘heimishe’ hashgachos, and yet you claim you wouldn’t eat the OU, which we’ve already seen isn’t true.”

What was he going to say? He was stumped.

I then spent a few minutes explaining to Chaim what I know about the OU. I have no connection with the OU at all - nothing - but happen to be familiar with their operations and the operations of several other large hashgachos, both Litvish and Chassidish. I spent a few minutes explaining how the largest kashrus certifying agency in the world, the OU, works and the remarkable system they have in place, with some of the most knowledgeable people in the kashrus field overseeing their respective departments. I told him that he should take one visit to the OU Headquarters in New York City and he’d be blown away. I then explained, in general, how the kashrus world works, with hashgachos having to rely on each other.

He humbly responded that I had taught him a lot.

I concluded that my point wasn’t to endorse the OU, or to give my approbation of the OK, Kof K, Star K, or any other national or local hashgacha or rav hamachshir.

“My point is that you should know what you are talking about and what you are doing before you say something,” I told him, perhaps a bit too strongly.

“Don’t say ‘I don’t eat OU.’ Don’t say that ‘I only eat heimishe hashgachos,’ because that makes little sense, it is not technically true, and your kashrus standards are so flimsy to begin with. Get educated. Know what you are talking about.”

With that, we parted ways.

{Shmuel Miskin-Matzav.com Newscenter}

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38 Responses to “The Matzav Rant: The “I Don’t Eat OU” Fallacy”

1. Comment from Anonymous
Time February 11, 2010 at 12:26 PM

Do you eat Oi Vei?

2. Comment from My thoughts
Time February 11, 2010 at 12:28 PM

Your friends are igonorant.

3. Comment from Onkly Kosher
Time February 11, 2010 at 12:47 PM

He is absolutely correct. Most Hashgoschos must rely on other Hashgachos. While Satmer may have their own hashgacha, they don’t have enough mashgichim to check in 1000 of factories worldwide where the ingredients and sub ingredients are coming from. OK relies on OU and OU relies on OK. Everything is intertwined.

4. Comment from ב”ח יורה דעה רצ”ג
Time February 11, 2010 at 12:58 PM

בענין ישן עיין ב”ח יורה דעה רצ”ג
ולכן אין לשום גדול
להורוח הוראה לאיסור היפך המנהג שנהגו ע״פ גדולי ישראל להיתר ומי שרוצה
להחמיר לעצמו מדת חסימת הוא ולא יורה לאחרים

So don’t say whoever isn’t Machmir on Yoshon….

5. Comment from yak
Time February 11, 2010 at 1:03 PM

Sounds OK to me I guess I O(WE) U for the KosherInfo. :)

6. Comment from glatekup
Time February 11, 2010 at 1:08 PM

this editorial is totally out of place. yes, of course the hisachdus may rely on ou ingredients but there are many plants that the ou may give a hechsher to that cannot be kashered to the standards of hisachdus and they will not use this product. for example a certain hashgocha will allow a store to use a certain type of oil and not others. they may all have the ou and this does not mean that they are not all kosher but the standards on one is better than the other. obviously the writer knows little about kashrus.

7. Comment from brooklyn mother
Time February 11, 2010 at 1:09 PM

what drives me crazy is when the schoools send home notes: please send items with ‘chassidische hechscher’ only!!!. and my kids dont attend a chasidische school. just a regular mainstream bais yacov.

8. Comment from Esser
Time February 11, 2010 at 1:23 PM

1. Once you get past ketchup and go to meat, there are various significant differences in the hashgachos, from the number of sirchos, to treibering, to leaving tape on the truck etc.
2. I would not eat from a restaurant or bakery that is owned by someone who is not shomer shabbos. In Brooklyn we don’t have to.
3. Many heimishe hashgochas in Boro Park and some in Flatbush are considered inferior in terms of basic supervision, bishul akum, bug checking etc.
4. Although I am makpid on yoshon, chasidim can feel comfortable following minhag avos and eating what their rebbes eat.

9. Comment from Frum Face
Time February 11, 2010 at 1:23 PM

Right on!! Right On!!
Thanks for posting. This is a long standing pet peeve of mine. As a family involved in kashrus, I can say with 100% certainty that you are right on the mark!
A few years ago, my brother went to PA for a production of kosher for pesach chocolate chips. It turned out, the facility was packaging product for 3 different companies/labels, with 3 different hashgachos. All were exactly the same in terms of kashrus.

10. Comment from Anonymous
Time February 11, 2010 at 1:43 PM

In a certain Hotel frequented mostly by Chasidim and alot of Litvishe. I saw the Chasidishe Masgiach emptying bags of “Wise”(under the OU) potato chips into unmarked containers. When I asked him why? he replied the chasidim would never eat here again.The Heimishe Hashgocho obviously considers it 100% but doesn’t enlighten their uninformed clientele

11. Comment from disagree
Time February 11, 2010 at 1:48 PM

Rabbi Miskin,

I don’t either eat OU. Not because I don’t think they are a good hecsher and not because I don’t know that “it is virtually impossible to purchase an item that doesn’t in some way rely on the OU for its hashgacha - directly or indirectly”.

The reason I don’t eat OU is because they use some heterim when it comes to ingredients or kashering that my ruv holds shouldn’t be used.

So I really think that although your friend is an am haaretz when it comes to the OU and hecsherim issue, your article is totally wrong.

(BTW, I don’t eat all of the so-called “heimishe hecsherim” either.

12. Comment from Buba
Time February 11, 2010 at 1:49 PM

Remember “Hechsheirim” is a big business

13. Comment from notallthere
Time February 11, 2010 at 1:55 PM

It’s so funny when I see Chasideshe Mashgichim emptying out “Wise” potato chips into unmarked containers so their Chasidishe clientele wouldn’t have a fit.Obviously the Chasideshe Hashgacha relies on the OU but doesn’t enlighten their people.Why?I don’t know.

14. Comment from Reality check
Time February 11, 2010 at 2:12 PM

Rav Moshe (Igros Moshe Orach Chaim 1:53) points out that one who eats from a facility based on the Torah’s rule of “eid echad neeman b’issurim” — that a person who to all appearances is frum has a Chezkas kashrus, and is ultimately nich’shol, is considered an oness, since he relied on the Torah’s guideliness.

This does not apply to a person who eats only from certain hashgachos, based not upon the fact that he personally knows the reliability of that person but because of “taamim kelushim” [weak reasons -- I think he means the person's appearance, mode of dress, or title]. This latter person is close to being a meizid.

But (my note)…

Of course, if you personally know that an eid echad is an am haaretz, you can only trust him to answer to the best of his ability, whihc may be inadeqaute.

Similarly, if you know the person relies on leniencies that are rejected by most poskim, his neemanus extends only to the extent that you can rely that he used those kulos, which you may choose not to do.

By the way, halachah makes no distinction between an owner and a Rav Hamchshior regarding neemanus, and the profit factor does not in the least bit impute this chazakah.

But lashon hara his not grounds to take away the chezkas kashrus, only two eidim before a beis din.

Those who disgaree with the Torah are Kofrim, so how can you believe their baloney stories?
The “fact finders.

15. Comment from reply to #11
Time February 11, 2010 at 2:30 PM

Well you don’t eat OU and you don’t eat the heimishe hechsherim so basically….you don’t eat! (Or you are making up stories)

16. Comment from Ae
Time February 11, 2010 at 2:33 PM

the better haimishe hashgochos investigate eat product before being somech on the ou, it’s not an automatic across the board.

17. Comment from a reader
Time February 11, 2010 at 2:43 PM

excellent article.
this is indicative of a phenomenon which is widespread in our communities: substituting ‘frumkeit’ and ‘chumros’ for intelligence and knowledge.

18. Comment from Kashrus L’shmo
Time February 11, 2010 at 2:53 PM

There are some very frum people that don’t buy any processed food except for what they can’t make themselves like oil or flour.They have their own shechita on which they have many chumros. Their kids don’t eat all the junk food that abounds, only what they make themselves. They certainly don’t frequent restaurants or buy take out. Kudos to them.

19. Comment from ok
Time February 11, 2010 at 3:30 PM

yes i need the heimisha hashgochos to tell me when to yes to realy on ou and when not !

20. Comment from Anonymous
Time February 11, 2010 at 3:48 PM

Each hechshar has their standards. You can have the same person give a hechshar for OU and some other hechshar - but just use a different playbook. For instance confectionaers glaze, heimishe hechsharim won’t give a hechshar on it - OU will. (actually I just saw for the first time a new candy company that has a heimisha hechshar with confectioners glaze) (FYI - it’s bug juice)

21. Comment from Der Alter
Time February 11, 2010 at 4:06 PM

No doubt comment #20 refers to the red dye produced by the processing of the Lac Beetle.
I to questioned the OU on this issue some years ago, and was told that the processing is so intense, that there is no recognizable tracking back to the original source. The other question to ask is what percentage of Lac sourced red dye is used.

22. Comment from lema’an ha’emes
Time February 11, 2010 at 4:11 PM

#18, there was a story of someone in Monsey who was so frum on kashrus he brought his own food to a wedding. turns out he was the only one eating treif there, since the mashgiach was somech on the owner and didn’t have the only keys to the freezer like the ou requires.

23. Comment from Pashuteh Yid
Time February 11, 2010 at 4:42 PM

What’s all this fuss? All you need to do is get any Rabbi to bless the food and it is kosher.

24. Comment from lema’an ha’emes
Time February 11, 2010 at 4:49 PM

#21, confectioner’s glaze is NOT carmine. it’s a CLEAR glaze- food-grade shellac.Carmine is from the cochineal.
From wikipedia:
It serves to improve the product’s appearance, extend shelf life and protect it from moisture, as well as provide a solid finishing film for pre-print coatings.

The OU allows it as there is no taste or color so it’s battul berov in the alcohol.

25. Comment from I eat OU and I don’t know why
Time February 11, 2010 at 5:08 PM

I eat OU: however the zionist / YU connection alliance really bothers me if their political views are not acc to bnei torah and the yeshivishe gedolim then how can we trust them on issue of kashrus. Gotta go my OU soda is dripping . if someone could address this I’d appreciate it

26. Comment from chosid
Time February 11, 2010 at 5:59 PM

Rov gedolei yisroel matired eating chadash chutz laaretz, including the famous maisa with the baal shem tov.

If you want to be machmir then gezunter heit but don’t you dare tell me I’m being meikel in kashrus by eating chadash.

27. Comment from lema’an ha’emes
Time February 11, 2010 at 6:07 PM

The kashrus floor and hashkafah floor are separate floors and separate cultures. Many on the kashrus floor cringe at the pr moves of the hashkafah floor.

28. Comment from yoshon dude
Time February 11, 2010 at 9:47 PM

Just a lttle note to all you anti-yoshon and anti OU people.
There may be many great poskim that are matir chodosh, BUT it is a only a HETER. OU uses many HETERIM also. “Heimisha” hechsherim use HETERIM also. So instead of bashing - accept. I don’t agree 100% with this article but he is pretty much on target. Get real and face the facts. We ALL need OU (and the other national hechsherim).
in short SLOW DOWN!!!

29. Comment from THE TRUTH HURTS
Time February 11, 2010 at 9:51 PM

A famous (Chasidishe) Rov said “national hechsherim are kosher with kulos and heimisha hechsherim are trief with chumros”
oh so true!

30. Comment from duvid
Time February 11, 2010 at 10:14 PM

As I have been doing research into to hechsherim over the past 10 years I can say - the truth is very ugly. I am not here to knock any hechser or rav hamachshir but the situation is “out of control”.
Who’s at fault? YOU. Yes YOU. Why? It’s simple the level of kashrus depends on the demand from the people. In todays world almost nobody cares about kashrus - yes almost nobody cares abot kashrus. yes, you may see many people who are “machmir” on many things, but the truth is they are clueless. That being the case, the “top” hasgachos don’t have to worry to much about standards, since many people are machmir to only eat their products. People are machmir on things without having a clue on they are machmir on!!! so it comes down to this the hashgachos know that almost NOBODY knows whats going on, so they can do what they want - and hope the (ignorant) machmirim give them a good name.
So if you want a good hechser 1)do some research 2)support that hasgacho 3)keep on top of the situation 4)DON’T “pump up” a regular hasgacho as “top nothch” in order to be able eat from them 5) Don’t eat everything and everywhere 6) Don’t be afraid to say no to a well known “machmir” hasgacho if you don’t feel happy with their standards.

31. Comment from Well Said
Time February 11, 2010 at 10:53 PM

Dude: Well said.

32. Comment from Buggy Salad
Time February 11, 2010 at 11:20 PM

I used to visit a lettuce factory every morning on behalf of a large hashgocha. And I can tell you that there are many bugs to be found in leafy veggies. When visiting my shviger for pesach her knowing that I am makpid on checking veggies showed me excitedly she found in the store a bag of a fancy salad mix with a sticket on it “produced under special production under hashgacha of some chasidishe hashgacha.” Well I burst her bubble I said first of all they never stepped foot in the plant as it is my plant and I would know if they did. Secondly the type of lettuce it was we had determined to be infested EVERY SINGLE TIME we checked it. Thirdly I pulled out a handful and instantly found many bugs. I like to say how great it is to live outside ny where we dont have these phony hashgachas trying to fool us that they are better. instead here we just rely on reliable national hashgochas

33. Comment from concerned jew
Time February 11, 2010 at 11:44 PM

kashrus alert

there is a bag of sour cream onion chips made by a company bickles of York they have a OU on the bag. it also says artificially flavored. in fact the chips are DAIRY. i have contacted the OU 5 times in the past 4 months about this with no response. recently i was on the train and saw a jewish girl snacking on the bag of chips i approached her and told her that they are DAIRY with surprise in her eyes she told me thank you and stopped to eat them. Now it bothered me even more so i called the OU again and demanded to speak to someone in charged. i told him the story and he replied saying that it is the responsibility of the consumer to check the ingredients so i replied that its unfortunate but people see the OU and dont see any reason to check. so he said he would call me back. the response i got back is that they printed a lot of bags already so the best they could do is that in the expiry date they can write dairy. this is not very impressive to hear from such a large organization.
so #1 its your responsibility to check ingredients from now on even if there is a OU there mite be some TARFUS in the food IT SAYS IT IN THE INGREDIENTS. #2 that Bickles of YORK sour cream onion chips are dairy ( they are sold in a lot of small food stands like hoboken train station ext.)

34. Comment from Kashrus L’shmo
Time February 11, 2010 at 11:48 PM

to #21, the glaze maybe contains shellac which comes from insects. It is called resinous glaze.

35. Comment from Anonymous
Time February 12, 2010 at 12:38 AM

It’s about time someone wrote a great article like this. I have been screaming about this issue for years.

So many people walking around and saying they only eat a hchsher out of boro park is non sense.

Almost all chaisdishe hechsherim don’t even send their own people nor the rav hamachshir , whos name is on most f the packages we see today have never stepped foot in any plant. This is a fact.

I have been sent to many factories to do hashgocha work and my name is never on a label!

Do people really think that private labels have their own companies?

Hellman’s mayonaise and craft make ALL the mayonaise for almost the entire world. Some people might ask then why does XYZ label tatse different and the answer to that is Hellman’s changes a mixture sometimes. Most of the time everything is exact and it’s all in the head.

There are only about 7 tuna companies that make all the tuna for the world.

When people say a certain company tuna is better than Starkist or Bumble Bee I love to see the reaction when you say to the “expert” it’s the same thing just a different label!

36. Comment from just the fact
Time February 12, 2010 at 1:18 PM

The same people who are not makpid on Yoshon, would not eat meat with that kind of heter.
The heter was based on extenuating circumstances.
and thats a fact.
So don’t bash others for this or for that. do what your kabalah and mesorah is (It helps to find out the reasoning behind these mesorahs and kabalahs - but that is another issue).

37. Comment from Yisroel Feldman
Time February 12, 2010 at 4:27 PM

For about twenty years, Rav Yisroel Belsky, Sh’lita, who is one of the Rabayim at Yeshiva Torah Vodaas, and one of the current Gedolay Poskim of the Chareidi world, has been one of the rabbinical advisors at the Kashrus department of the OU for many years.

Furthermore, about 13 years ago, when I was staying in the frum community in Denver, Colorado, I was in contact with one of the personnel of the local (Chareidi) Kashrus Vaad, whom I recognized had earlier been one of the Chavrei Kollel at Beis Medrosh Gevoha. At one point, I remarked to him that the OU was of the “Modern Orthodox.” At that, he sharply retorted THAT THAT REMARK WAS TOTALLY WRONG!! He related that especially in recent years, the OU’s Kashrus department has become filled with very good B’nei Torah yeshivishe people who do an excellent job of Kashrus supervision. Obviously, any questions regarding specific issues should be directed to them.

38. Comment from suprised
Time February 13, 2010 at 1:40 PM

#25 “the zionist / YU connection alliance really bothers me”
Do you know who Rav Yisrael Belsky is? Well find out and go apologize to him. I hope he is moichel you.

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