Use the Micro-Cloth Method
The lives of the Jewish people are governed by our Holy Torah, the Talmud and the Code of Jewish Law. In every aspect of life, from birth to death and after, from awakening in the morning until retiring at night, through both happy and sad times, we are guided and instructed by Almighty G-d.
What is our source for not eating insects?
The Torah (Vayikra 11:20-23) states that insects and crawling creatures are not Kosher. Consequently, many vegetables, fruit and other products that are prone to infestation, must be checked and the insects removed. The method of checking and removing insects from vegetables, fruit and other products differ according to each species as will be detailed below.
Most locally picked unprocessed fresh produce such as raw fruits, vegetables and nuts are technically kosher, but need to be checked for various issues.
In most instances, even produce that bears a reliable Hechsher also requires checking. The exception is if the Hechsher states that no further checking is needed. The reason for this is that a Hechsher on a product generally only relates to aspects of kashrut other than infestation (e.g. no non-kosher flavours, colourings, etc. have been added to the product; the manufacturing process and equipment have been approved; etc.). Moreover, in certain instances, infestation can develop after manufacture.
INSECTS ARE SO SMALL – DOES IT REALLY MAKE A DIFFERENCE IF WE ACCIDENTALLY EAT ONE?
If a person eats a water creature (e.g. a worm found in fish), he transgresses 4 prohibitions for each one. If he eats a land creature (e.g. a crawling insect), he transgresses 5 prohibitions. If he eats a flying creature (e.g. a flying insect), he transgresses 6 prohibitions for each (see Gemorah Makkos 16b).
On the other hand, taking care not to consume such creatures elevates us spiritually, and for this reason alone we were worthy of having been taken out of Egypt. (See Rashi on Vayikra 11:45).
Accordingly, checking and cleaning produce is very important and requires tremendous diligence. This places an enormous responsibility on us as kosher consumers and an even greater responsibility on a Mashgiach.
Even creatures that are so small that only a searching eye can detect are prohibited. Moreover, if the reason they are not seen is not that they are too small, but that they are too elusive, they are likewise forbidden, as a concealed creature is still a creature. However, anything that is microscopic is of no concern. There is therefore no obligation to use a magnifying glass to check. However, if you do see something and you cannot identify whether it is a creature or merely dirt, then you must use a magnifying glass to help you make a determination (10 x magnification is best).
The Beth Din is constantly researching infestation issues and methods of avoiding infestation. For this reason, the methods in this manual may differ from the instructions that have been previously published. At this point in time, the processes mentioned in each case are the only acceptable methods.
Who may check fruit & vegetables?
Any adult Jew may check fruit and vegetables, provided they:
- know what to look for
- know how to check
- have good enough eyesight
In Kosher SA licenced food services, only a Kosher SA qualified Mashgiach may check vegetables.
Halacha states that a non-Jew may never be relied upon to check for infestation even if he is extremely knowledgeable and very dependable. However, a non-Jew may assist in the cleaning of fruits and vegetables under careful and constant supervision. This will be discussed further below.
In order to check produce, you will often need proper equipment.
General challenges with checking vegetables
Checking for insects properly is a very time consuming and tiring procedure that requires a great deal of patience, diligence and Yirat Shamayim (Fear of Heaven).
- Insects are often very small.
- Insects are often mistaken for dirt.
- Many insects have a similar colour to their host vegetable.
- Many insects hide between crevices.
- In some cases, leaf miner tunnels occurs in leafy vegetables and can only be noticed by a trail of tunnels.
Aphids are small sap-sucking insects. Common names include greenfly and blackfly.
This is a tiny black and yellow fly that attacks many different vegetables. The fly lays eggs into the leaves and larvae make tunnels inside the leaf as they feed. (See the tunnelling section under vegetable checking methods.)
These flying insects are slender and extremely small (between 0.5 and 2.5 mm long).
Effects of a fruit fly
The life cycle of insects:
Every stage is forbidden to eat (if big enough to see)
General stages of vegetable checking
Depending on the type of infestation, as well as the type of produce involved, there are different ways of preparing insect-free food. Sometimes careful cleaning is sufficient. Sometimes all that is required is a test. And in some cases, a visual check is adequate. Let us discuss each of these in general terms to give us a broad picture. The applications of these processes will then be spelled out in each individual case.
Where the infestation is easy to wash off, we simply clean the produce. Examples of this are rinsing of peppers and brushing down of celery sticks.
Sometimes detergent is the only way to wash off the infestation. An example of this is cabbage. This is because the insect that often infests cabbage is called a thrip. This tiny insect grips onto the leaf and cannot be washed off. But after soaking the leaves for a few minutes in very soapy water, the leaves become slippery and the thrips lose their grip.
This system, however, is not effective for all insects. Aphids (greenfly) grip leaves with their elongated mouths, so they will not wash off in soapy water.
However, you can wipe them off by sponging both sides of a leaf using a soft, very soapy, sponge.
Accordingly, this method is suitable for lettuce.
Very Important: Cleaning (as opposed to checking or testing) may be done by a non-Jew under your careful and constant supervision. But you need to be aware, that you can only allow the non-Jewish staff to help you if you are standing over them watching them clean the produce correctly. If you have left the room, they may not continue. You need to ensure the method is followed through 100% accurately. Be aware that if 1 insect is left behind by the staff, you are ultimately responsible.
Where it is possible to visually detect all infestation, we very carefully check the produce visually with the aid of strong lighting. Examples of this are lettuce, baby spinach, and butter beans.
Where aphids are the problem, you must soak the leaves in a soap-water solution, before doing a visual check. This irritates the aphids and often causes them to release their grip from the leaves.
Sometimes we do not examine the produce at all. Instead, we shake the produce over a surface and scan that surface for infestation. If this reveals infestation, more intense methods of cleaning will be necessary or we do not use the produce at all. This technique is used where the shape of the produce makes it impossible to visually detect infestation and to clean sufficiently well. Examples of this are: flat leaf parsley and some other fresh herbs.
Produce not permitted at food services
If it is impossible to check produce properly, then such items may not be used in commercial food preparations. Examples include: corn on the cob, regular spinach, broccoli florets and certain berries.
Fresh produce that doesn't need checking
Not all produce requires checking for infestation. Anything classified as “rarely infested” may be eaten without checking. Some examples include: apples, bananas, potatoes, carrots, and beetroot.
Also included in this list are industrially dried chopped/flaked herbs with a hechsher. This may sound surprising, as many of these herbs may not be used at all in their fresh state due to extremely high levels of infestation. The intensive and numerous procedures involved in the drying of these herbs, however, will actually eradicate any infestation. Nevertheless, storing dried herbs for extended periods can occasionally result in infestation (which you will notice easily with a superficial inspection).
Note: If you need to check something not listed you must contact the kosher department.
Group A & Group B Methods of checking
Process for Group A Herbs
This process can be applied to Mint, Sage, Curry leaves, Rocket and Watercress. This process can only be used where the leaves are large enough to sponge on both sides.
Equipment: Soft very soapy sponge
- Ensure that any leaves that are too small to be sponged on both sides are discarded.
- Visually check 10% of the leaves for tunnelling. If you find any tunnelling, visually check it all.
- Any leaf found with tunnelling must be discarded entirely.
- Rub both sides of each large leaf with a soft, very soapy, sponge. Take care to wipe into all the folds.
- Thoroughly rinse both sides of each leaf individually under a stream of cold water.
Process For Group B Herbs
This process can be applied to Rosemary. Parsley (Flat Leaf), Coriander and Basil.
- NO CLEANING IS TO BE DONE BEFORE THIS TEST: Shake the leaves over a light box / large piece of white paper. To do this, make up a bunch of approximately 15 branches, and hold it tightly in one hand and thump the base of the wrist of that hand onto the fist of the other. The violent shake will dislodge most infestation. Also, run your fingers through the leaves to dislodge any remaining infestation.
- Examine the surface very carefully, using a magnifying glass to identify any particles, which may or may not be infestation.
- Look out carefully for any movement. Some insects (e.g. red spider mites) are tiny and will only be identified by their movement.
- How many insects (dead or alive) did you find?
0 – 2 insects
Clear the white surface and repeat the process above. If you now have a total of 3 insects, then continue with the column on the right (3 or more insects), otherwise continue below
- Soak the leaves for two to three minutes in very soapy water (enough soap to make the water feel slimy). Thoroughly rinse under a stream of cold water, making sure the water runs through all the crevices and between all the leaves.
- Visually check 10% of the leaves for tunnelling. If you find any tunnelling, visually check it all. If no tunnelling was found in the 10%, the leaves may now be used
- If you found any tunnelling, remove the entire leaf together with the stalk it is attached to.
3 or more insects
The bunch cannot be used. However, if the individual leaves are large enough, you may follow the Process for Group A Herbs described above.
Micro-Cloth System Method of checking
Potentially infested produce is cleaned with soap and water to remove insects. The efficacy of the cleaning process is assessed by checking the cleaning-water for insects. The cleaning-water is checked by filtering it through a specialised cloth and inspecting the cloth. If no insects are found on the cloth, we can assume the produce is clean.
For food services, a trained staff member can clean the produce and can be supervised by the mashgiach, but any checking must be done by a SA certified mashgiach.
- Clean Running Water
- Bowl or Basin
- Micro Cloth
- 2 Strainers (Colanders)
- Light box
- Food Safe Slippery Vegetable Wash
Additional Recommended Equipment:
- A Spray Bottle (to disperse suds on the cloth)
- Toothpick (to move around dirt on cloth to better inspect for insects)
- Magnifying glass (for those unfamiliar with insect identification)
- Multiple Bowls/Basins (to speed up the process)
Separate all leaves if applicable. For produce prone to tunnelling, visually check 10% of the leaves. If you find any tunnelling, visually check it all. Any leaf with tunnelling needs to be removed, together with the stalk it is attached to. Only the tunnel-free leaves may be cleaned/checked using this method. This needs to be done for: baby spinach; basil; coriander; curry; kale; mint; parsley; rocket; sage and savoury.
While not required, it is recommended to pre-wash produce before using this method. This helps minimise the remaining dirt and insects to be cleaned.
The basin should be prepared with a solution of water and veg soap. There should be enough soap so that the water feels slippery. There should be enough liquid to cover the produce.
Place the Micro Cloth in between two equal size strainers (colanders).
Place the separated leaves into the soapy solution for 1 – 2 minutes. If the produce does not feel slightly slippery, add more soap. Agitate the produce thoroughly in the water solution.
Remove the produce from the water, allowing the excess water and soap to drain back into the bowl or basin.
Discard the water afterwards.
Repeat step 3 & 5. Once produce is believed to be clean or a er the second wash, ensure this wash is done in a basin or bowl where the water can be used for checking.
Remove the produce from the water, allowing the excess water and soap to drain back into the bowl.
Pour the water through a MicroCloth that is sandwiched between 2 strainers. Run water through the strainers (and Micro-Cloth) to remove any remaining suds.
Preparation and Cleaning could be done by a trained staff member, but any checking must be done by an adult Jew who knows what to look for and has good enough eyesight. In BD licensed food services, only a BD qualified Mashgiach may check.
Carefully remove the Micro-Cloth from between the strainers/ colanders and place it on the light box.
Carefully inspect the cloth for insects. A spray bottle and toothpick are recommended to dissipate remaining suds and move around dirt. – If insects are found: repeat the process. – If insects found after 3 repetitions of the process, do not use the produce. Use less infested produce instead. – If no insects are found – the product may be rinsed of any remaining soap and used
Label and store the clean product in an insect-free environment to prevent re-infestation
Terumah and Ma'aser on Fresh Produce from Israel
Produce of Israel
Grains, fruits, and vegetables (and their extracts) that grow in the halachic boundaries of Eretz Yisrael (Israel) are subject to many extra kosher laws due to the kedusha (holiness) of the land. These include:
- The requirement to separate terumah (the Priestly tithe)
- The requirement to separate the various forms of ma’aser (tithes for the Levites, the poor, and the portion that was to be eaten in Jerusalem in Temple times)
- Shmita (produce of the Sabbatical year)
- A stricter form of Orla (produce of a tree within its first 3 years).
Processed foods from Israel with a reputable hechsher guarantees that all these halachic issues have been taken care of.
We are aware of a number of seasonal fruits that are being imported from Israel and require Terumah and Ma’aser be separated.
Method to separate Terumah and the various forms of Ma’aser:
- Place all of the food that needs to be tithed in one place
- Put a bit more than 1% of the food aside (if separating for more than one food species at one time, then you must put aside a bit more than 1% of each food species and place it next to the group from which it was separated). Then say this declaration (without a bracha):
- “I hereby declare the excess of the one percent portion that was set aside to be the Priestly tithe and note that it is located on the northern side.” [If separating for more than one food species, then add: “Each species for its own kind.”].
- “The one percent remaining here, together with nine equal portions at the upper side of this produce, is declared to be the first [Levite] tithe.” [If separating for more than one food species, then add: “Each species for its own kind.”].
- “The one percent that I have made to be part of the first tithe is hereby declared to be the terumah portion of the tithe.”
- “If the tithe of the poor is required to be separated – the Ma’aser Ani is to be on its southern side.” [If separating for more than one food species, then add “Each species for its own kind”].
- “If the second tithe is required to be separated – the Ma’aser Sheni is to be on its southern side [If separating for more than one food species, then add: “Each species for its own kind”].
- It and its extra fifth are hereby redeemed onto one Perutah that the director of “the Fund for the redemption of Ma’aser Sheni and Revai” has designated for the Johannesburg Beth Din, for the purpose of such redemption.”
- “If the produce is Revai (fourth-year fruit), then it and its extra fifth are hereby redeemed onto one Perutah that the director of “the Fund for the redemption of Ma’aser Sheni and Revai” has designated for the Johannesburg Beth Din, for the purpose of such redemption.”
- If you have difficulty reciting the above text, you can say this abbreviated version:
- “I hereby set aside all the T’rumot and Ma’asrot and redeem all Ma’aser Sheni and Revai according to the halachah, as is written in the text for members of ‘The Fund for the Redemption of Ma’aser Sheni and Revai‘ per the Johannesburg Beth Din.”
- Securely wrap up the separated produce and discard
- The remaining food is now permitted to be eaten.
*Please note that “Israeli” tomatoes are usually locally grown as are “English” cucumbers. Check the label to verify the place of origin.
Ready-cut Fruits & Vegetables
Ready-cut fruit and vegetables may be bought from any reputable supplier, without kosher certification.
NB: When bought from Pick n Pay, Woolworths, Shoprite Checkers or Food Lovers Market, this includes “sharp” items such as onion and radish. When bought from suppliers other than those listed above, one should avoid “sharp” items.
The above excludes leafy vegetables which require checking for infestation and crushed garlic (even without any additives), which requires kosher certification.