Rabbeim Anticipated Spinach Issues?

Reader Kishkeman writes,

I wish there was some discussion regarding bagged Spinach. Specifically, the Star-K stopped giving kosher certification on bagged-Spinach months ago. I don’t think they claimed the Spinach had e-coli. But they did have lots of bugs. I’m not sure that the bugs from that time had anything to do with the ecoli breakout now. But my point is that while our community always wants to discuss and put down chumras as they are created. This is actually a place where the kosher police were apparently on to something. I keep a pretty traditional life with affiliation at an Orthodox and Conservative shul. But I thought the recent unkoshering of bagged Spinach was dumb. I have continued to eat about a bag a week. Of course that has stopped now. This is one time I and others should have listened to the rabbis.

9 thoughts on “Rabbeim Anticipated Spinach Issues?

  1. Bugs on the produce is a sign of pretty weak and low quality produce. healthy, strong vegetables naturally repell pests, the same way healthy people usually don’t have flies around them, or festering wounds.

  2. Yoseph Leib–
    According to R. Wye, an Israeli expert on bugs in food, farmers don’t want to eliminate bugs completely because some *are* healthy for plants. All bugs are equally unkosher (except for some grasshopper of course).

  3. The original letter is, to use the kindest word I can think of, silly. The idea that a bunch of rabbis could take a vegetable off the table and later, someone can surmise that this was perhaps related to an outbreak of pathogens? Insane. Sorry, my blood’s starting to boil.
    As MII pointed out, some insects are beneficial. But to be more general, bugs live on plant leaves. Any 5 year-old can tell you that. Spinach is a plant which is composed mostly of leaves (the part above the ground, that is), and therefore, bugs really like it. Ever grown spinach, anyone? I have- it’s a bugfest, a deep lovely leafy emerald green bugfest. So you wash it before you eat it, say a bracha for being priviledged enough to get such a kiddush Hashem from your dirt, and go on. Organic produce might attract more bugs because it tends not to be nuked with nasty pesticides (like most commercial produce) that will kill of insects that dare to tread on the spinach’s turf, but bugs are feisty SOBs. They eat petrochemicals as condiments.
    Bugs are natural. They are not a barometer of the health of a particular crop. True, diseased plants harbor more bugs, but healthy plants sure have their fair share when grown without interference. As far as kashrus and bugs, I consider the current hype to be a form of insanity far more dangerous than a couple of thrips on a head of broccoli. The thrips can be washed or picked off. The rabbis who are leading our people down the road to paranoia are staying put.
    The current spinach problem is due to e. coli. I can see e. coli because I work in a lab where we use it and I have fancy microscopes and expensive lab stuff. You don’t. Those rabbis who banned bagged spinach probably don’t. They had no secret powers to foresee this epidemic and linking it to some bugs in an innocent bag of salad greens is a real am haaretzdich thing to do. Please stop or I’ll have to spew more science…

  4. My dad was a health inspector. He told me NEVER to eat produce from mexico. They irrigate with human waste. He also told me about USA produce: where do you think these field workers relieve themselves? IF, and that is a big IF they have port o can there are no sinks and fine soaps to use, so in effect, your lettuce is someone’s toilet paper.

  5. the details still remain to be inspected, but as far as i know, the supposed cause of the e.coli (in this case and the majority of other produce cases) is due to irrigation, and specifically the use of crops that have come in contact with floodwaters. this is something i’m now going to be studying in school for several years, so when i know more, i will update, but as it stands now, there doesn’t seem to be any relationship between the previous bugs and the e.coli. that said, that doesn’t account for the power of divine inspiration…hmm…the kashrut prophecies….

  6. I think Judi and Steven (Canonist) are over-reacting just a *tad* here. First, the reader made no claims of causation and simply mused about the coincidence:
    “I don’t think they claimed the Spinach had e-coli. But they did have lots of bugs. I’m not sure that the bugs from that time had anything to do with the ecoli breakout now.”
    I’m sure the reader appreciates, as do I, the science lesson. You’re the experts, not us. I love learning from others. What we don’t need is the condescension that goes with it.
    And Steven, while you have fed me several Shabbat dinners (and I hope more to come), Dan let me crash at his place for a week so I must get in his corner and say: what the hell is “you’ve gotta fault Dan for giving it enough credence to it to reproduce it” all about?!? He offered it with no commentary! It’s amusing, silly or not, and you’re attaching beliefs about his ideas of rabbinical faith that he simply does not state.
    And yeah, I recently blogged about a delicious pork bbq, so salt on that.

  7. Krucoff, I appreciate your concern. But the line that really put me over the edge (yes, I admit I reacted strongly) was this one:
    This is actually a place where the kosher police were apparently on to something.
    The kosher police were on to nothing except insects in bags of spinach. And I personally feel that they were overstepping their bounds in removing their hechsher from that product. A reminder to their targeted audience to wash their produce carefully would have been a much more responsible action.
    I am extremely concerned that people may read too much into the actions of the “kosher police”. If contaminated (non-cholov Yisroel) milk is tied to a campylobacter outbreak, does this mean we should have listened and drank only CI milk? If pathogens show up in a non-glatt production run of hot dogs, does this mean we should eat only glatt? There are people out there who would answer “yes”, just as the original letter-writer suggested.
    Again, sorry for the strong reaction, but I am seeing signs of this kind of behavior daily, and it’s really got me worried.

  8. I agree with Steven, this guy is a little “silly”.
    The whole point of the hecksher is the bedika – if people still have to wash their vegetables then why would they purchase one with a hecksher that costs more per bag than other brands. Thus, since the Star-K couldn’t guarantee the washing process, no more hecksher.

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