The War on Parve: Finding the Morsels of Mass Distraction.

War on parveThe War on Parve took an odd turn when it was revealed that Trader Joe’s did  not change its chocolate chips last week. They are the same chips as they always were — namely the best parve chips you can get, for cheap.  So why did the OK change their labels from parve to D?

We have since learned from the Jewish Journal, the processing plant that bags the chips changed their cleaning process between bagging the dairy chips and the parve chips.  Do they clean? yes. But the method they use to clean is now different. It’s dry, not wet.  A spokesman for the OK indicated this change requires them to change the label since they cannot guarantee that a dairy chip does not make it into a parve bag.  Wait?! Since when do we need the OK to guarantee that a dairy chip does not mistakenly fall into the bag? Isn’t that the job of the processing plant itself?

There are two halachic principles at play.

  1. Batel B’Shishim
  2. Chamira Sakanta Me’isura

If a dairy morsel falls into a bag of parve chocolate chips — why is that not butul?  It is less than 1/60th of the batch, it does not impart a change of taste to the collection of chips (since the parve morsels are reasonably convincing as chocolate, and you’d melt them into one batch of cookies anyway), chips are not sold as individuals items, they are not avodah zarah, they are not chometz sh’avar alav hapesach, and most importantly — it’s would be an accident — which is where Batel B’Shishim applies. OK, maybe Batel B’Rov. Hey, you guys tell me.

Moreover, the real issue should be one of sakana, danger, not one of basar v’chalav.  Some people are lactose intolerant, and need to know if they are consuming dairy.  It’s a sakana for them not to know. And therefore the government regulators will require Trader Joe’s to indicate that the chips are processed in a plant that also processes dairy.  This is a warning label.  If you really think you must avoid dairy at all costs, then don’t take a chance — or make sure to have an extra lactaid pill, just in case. The sakana is a problem. But not the issur. So TJ’s should be machmir with sakana — they should follow the law and put the legally mandated warning label, which they do. So I have no problem with TJ’s, they are doing everything right. But is the OK OK?

But I don’t understand why the OK feels the need to change their labels. In the highly unlikely event a dairy chip does make it into the bag, I suggest it should be butul from the perspective of milchiks.  But what do I know? Maybe someone from the OK will comment here.  Or I could ask Rabbi Talli Bahn for a psak — she might know, she has smicha from when she was a man. Or maybe some of the smart people who comment on this blog could help us solve this mystery.

Ask me what I really think? — I’m interested to find out who makes money and who looses money here. I bet someone will discover there is another angle to this whole story, something that might be related to the almighty dollar.

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