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The AJN Got It Very Wrong: The Slurpee Saga

January 12, 2014 – 12:48 pm97 Comments

bad journalism2Editor’s note: Welcome back, Galus readers. We begin 2014 with two pieces by Rabbis Yaron Gottlieb and Meir Rabi. 

Yaron Gottlieb writes:

The AJN this week reported on the ongoing vitriol between the kosher agencies. The only problem was that without doing proper research, they ended up making a huge beat up out of a total non-story.

The AJN reported on an email received from 7-Eleven last week which claimed that an “unprompted” email “out of the blue” was sent to them certifying Slurpees as kosher.

The two Kosher Australia authorities (NSW and Vic) both used this email to attack Rabbi Rabi and his kashrut authority, It’s Kosher, which supposedly gave 7-Eleven the certification.

Something sounded wrong with the story, so I emailed 7-Eleven for clarification. This is the relevant part of the response I received:

“Coca Cola are the manufacturer of the syrup that we use in our Slurpees. The machines in store combine C02 & Water to bring out the finished product.”

This was quite different from what the AJN was reporting. The emails were sent 7-Eleven – Slurpee’s distributors, while any certification or authorisation can only occure at the manufacturing level. A good analogy is that we know a cinema can’t declare whether Cadbury’s chocolate has a hechsher – the hechsher is given at the manufacturing level.

So this is truly a non-story and with minimal research, the fact that it’s a non story is very easy to find out. It’s difficult to understand how the editor of Australia’s largest Jewish publication, Zeddy Lawrence, who wrote the article, could miss something so obvious.

The story doesn’t end here, however. There’s even more hypocrisy afoot. The AJN was happy to publish without any question the KA(NSW) statement that “the certification of Slurpees by It’s Kosher is an irrelevancy”, even though KA(NSW)  “allow for the consumption of Slurpees”, using the exact same methods that were used by It’s Kosher.

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Rabbi Rabi writes:

If Zeddy Lawrence, editor in chief of the AJN, would do just a little more research, he would not be surprised by our CoSKA [Community Service Kosher Advisory] for various Slurpee flavours. After all, they are Kosher in NSW.

He [and so many others] must however remain in a perpetual state of surprise when considering that the same Slurpees that are Kosher in NSW, are banned by KAM [Kosher Australia Melbourne].

This riddle has long evaded resolution but an undeterred Rabbi Moshe Gutnick explains, “KAS [Kashrut Authority Sydney]in New South Wales, based on guidance from the London Beth Din and others, permits Slurpees – qualified by various guidelines as stated in our kosher directory”

There now, does that not make perfect sense? Its Kosher because its Kosher, but not because It’s Kosher says so – because “It’s Kosher is an irrelevancy”. And don’t ask why.

The fact is that foods are kosher if they comply with our traditional Orthodox, Halachic guidelines. Our CoSKA [Community Service Kosher Advisory] is issued when we have ensured that all ingredients are kosher, that all processes are suitable for kosher and that there is no risk of cross contamination from non-kosher foods or ingredients. We make all necessary evaluations and analyses and continue to monitor those for the duration of the CoSKA.”

Now a question is asked, “What measures are undertaken to ensure that all processes are suitable for kosher and that there is no risk of cross contamination”

Who better to ask this to than the London Beth Din Kashrut Division.They declare on their FAQ page:

All plain dried pasta, including pasta containing egg is permitted as is pasta coloured and flavoured with vegetable extracts such as spinach or tomato.

- also   All soft drinks are permitted, unless they contain grape juice or non-permitted E-numbers.

- also   Yoghurts are permitted except where they contain gelatine, E120 (which may be listed as cochineal or carmine), grape juice or other problematic ingredients.

Take note:

* This LBD Kosher announcement is made without inspecting ingredients and without inspecting the manufacturing plant.

* The LBD cannot verify that the same plant and machinery is not used for pork, lard, tallow or squid ink, which is used for making black pasta [and which the LBD is aware of] or any of those prohibited E numbers or other problematic ingredients.

I will explain how this works:

A.  Many ingredients are Kosher because they are intrinsically Kosher, like water, milk, etc. Their Kosher certification is a Mitzvah because it means a Jew is getting some Parnossa.

B.  There are known processing protocols in first world countries that provide assurances that Halacha can rely upon. In fact, the Gemara and Halacha is replete with illustrations where even in far inferior conditions, foods prepared by non-Jews in their non-Kosher kitchens, is perfectly Kosher LeChatChila, in the first instance. So the LBD is not worried about cross contamination from squid ink in the pasta factories.

Since the focus of our work is to assist the community, we will not be deterred if the manufacturers are unwilling to proceed with Kosher certification, or answer all of our questions. We pursue other avenues to establish the kosher status of the ingredients and processes. As should be clear from my tone, this information is very private and we are unable to provide detail.

Disclosure: The editor is married to Yaron Gottlieb.

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