Monday, June 4, 2012

Are Oreos Israel?

My wife returned home from the local grocery to the joy and delight of my children with three boxes of Oreos. Yet, just when she was about to break open the first box, she noticed the hechsher on the box:

You should have no trouble seeing that the cookies, which were not made in the United States, have the hechsher of the Triangle-K, an organization that is not universally accepted in Orthodox circles. Actually, to be more precise, the Triangle-K is almost universally not accepted in Orthodox circles.
But then, you might notice the big oval to the left of the Triangle-K. Having trouble reading it? No problem, I'll blow it up for you.

It says:
כשר חלבי (לאוכלי אבקת חלב נכרי) אפיית ישראל ללא חשש חדש באישור רבנות הראשית לישראל
[Translation: Kosher dairy (for those who eat powdered milk from non-Jewish milk) baked by a Jew without any concern for Chadash, with the approval of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate]

What? Is there something that I'm not getting? How is it that the OU, Chof-K, Star-K, etc, specifically "do not recommend" using products with the Triangle-K, but the Israeli Chief Rabbinate has no problems with it? Does the rabbinate send its own representative into the factories in order to ensure that the supervision is done properly? Or, has the Chief Rabbinate somehow decided that despite the fact that most reputable kashrut organizations don't accept the Triangle-K, they accept it nonetheless?
I'd love to hear that the answer is the former...and yet I fear that it's closer to the latter.
In any case, we found ourselves in the sticky situation of trying to explain to our children why they couldn't eat the cookies. "What's wrong?" they wondered. Isn't it Kosher?
"Yes," we told them, it is indeed kosher. It's certainly not treif, and we try very hard to educate our children that while we might be strict about certain chumrot and hashgachot, that does not, by any means, imply that the food is treif.
"But if it's Kosher, why can't we eat it?" How do you answer? It's not kosher enough?
Of course, this problem isn't unique to Oreos. It happens often when we come across a meat restaurant that isn't Mehadrin (which we're careful about). And yet, I never thought that I'd have a problem with the Israeli rabbinate approving a product that I myself don't approve.