Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight


A Window into the Charedi World | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







Shearis Yisroel Warns: Check Packaged Bakala for Non-Kosher Fish

by B. Rabinowitz

Recently, significant amounts of non-kosher fish, included in packages of codfish (bakala), both cases and bags, were discovered in simcha halls and stores in chareidi neighborhoods, causing many people to unwittingly eat non- kosher products. In light of this serious problem, the beis din of Shearis Yisroel said that everyone should carefully examine all of the codfish packages in his possession, as well as those he plans to purchase, to be sure that they do not contain non-kosher fish.

The problem has surfaced in packages that do not have real kashrus certification. A piece of fish need not have kashrus certification if it is sold with its skin and the scales are in evidence.

Recently, avreichim and kashrus supervisors reported on this new and dangerous problem that came to light during routine examinations of codfish packages. These examinations clearly determined that large percentages of the fish packages contained non-kosher fish. In one instance, six non- kosher fish were discovered in a one kilogram (2.2 pound) package. It should be noted that some of the packages even bore various kashrus certificates, but after a very careful examination it was discovered that these certificates were fraudulent.

In light of these incidents, the beis din tzedek of Shearis Yisroel has decided to taken special measures to warn the public of the problem, and to make every effort prevent this great stumbling block, which has occurred due to the failure to check each and every case and package of codfish. In its public announcement, it said that every piece of fish in one's possession (i.e. which one has already bought), and every piece of fish in the packages one intends to buy, must be checked separately, to ascertain whether its skin has scales, something which can be confirmed by an examination and careful inspection of the fish. This warning applies even to fish packages which bear labels with hechsherim.

It was stressed that the differences between the types of fish should be noted, and that the skin of a non-kosher fish tends to be a bit pink. In halls, restaurants and similar establishments under the supervision of Shearis Yisroel, care has always been taken to insure the kashrus of fish, and the mashgichim in these places received detailed instructions regarding the manner of examining the fish, and have been told to inspect each and every piece of fish. Many people have already turned to the Kashrus Department of Shearis Yisroel, and have received detailed instruction and guidance on how to check the kashrus of the fish.

As soon as the Hebrew Yated Ne'eman publicized this serious shortcoming, many people from all over the country began to phone the paper and to report that they had also found non-kosher fish in bakala packages. The general director of Shearis Yisroel, Rabbi Yekutiel Dershowitz said that avreichim and bnei Torah arrived in the offices of Shearis' Kashrus Department with bakala packages, and upon examining the packages, large percentages of non- kosher fish were discovered. "This is a widespread phenomenon," Rabbi Dershowitz said, "and the public must be on the alert, and check each and every package of bakala, even if the package seems to contains only kosher fish."

In light of the publicity given to the matter, kashrus authorities in the Chief Rabbinate have begun to take measures to prevent this large stumbling block. However, since the packaging takes place on board the ships while the fish is being transported to Israel, it will be difficult to maintain tight supervision, and it will be necessary to revamp the supervision policies in a fundamental manner if they are to be effective.


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