Are The Bugs in Tropicana Orange Juice Kosher?

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trop[By Rabbi Yair Hoffman]

Tropicana is the world’s leading producer of branded fruit juices. In all probability, this is because of its remarkable fresh, orangey taste. They get this taste through a unique and remarkable process—they actually squeeze oil out of the peel, centrifuge the oil to separate it from the surrounding water, and add some of the oil to the juice while maintaining careful quality control. Among the oils that are separated from the peels are essential oils, limonene oils, and orange oils. The juice is then flash pasteurized and ultimately packaged in special containers that retain the flavor and protect the juice from oxygen, light, and moisture.

The plus side of adding the oil from the peel is the remarkable “freshly squeezed” taste found in the product. The downside, it seems, is that in the process of adding the oils of the peel, something else is also introduced into the juice.

Scale Bugs

One of the biggest problems facing citrus farmers throughout the world is the presence of scale bugs. Scale bugs affect both “eating oranges” and “juice oranges.” Traditionally, scale bugs have been controlled with such broad-spectrum insecticides as organophosphate and carbamate, but since the 1990s the scale bugs have developed immunity to many of the insecticides. Other insecticides are employed and rotated, however, which do succeed in limiting a large number of scale infestations.

Because of the presence of scale bugs, many of the leading “heimish” hechsherim have banned Tropicana orange juice. For a fascinating view of some of the scale bugs on oranges and lemons, see the video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=1wCGfZkv88A. Warning: It is not for the faint of heart. It was produced by a non-Jew whose concern is not kashrus.

Why don’t the scale bugs come off in our hands after we peel an orange? In Israel, Rav Moshe Vaye, the leading halachic expert on bugs, writes that it is a serious problem and one may not peel an orange and then eat the fruit unless the scales have been removed or unless the one who peels it wears gloves while peeling and then removes them. It may be a little-known fact, but in the United States, this is not a problem with off-the-shelf oranges because the fruit is waxed and the scale bugs that remain after the intense high-pressure wash do not come off, on account of the wax.

Processing

Nearly 80 percent of the oranges grown in the United States come from Florida, and the Tropicana company works with over a dozen Florida groves. Generally speaking, pesticides are applied to the orange trees six to twelve times throughout the year. The summer spray, occurring in June or July, is the one that is targeted toward scales, although there may be additional spraying depending upon infestation levels.

Florida uses a three-tiered approach to combat infestations, combining natural biological defenses (“good bugs” that eat or otherwise kill the “bad bugs”), oil, and pesticides.

Most fruit in Florida is handpicked, and each worker can pick about 900 pounds of oranges per hour. They are placed in 90-pound boxes and are brought to the processing plant. About 90 percent of these fruits are intended for juice, while only 10 percent are destined for the fresh market. The oranges are placed on a conveyor belt and workers on both sides of the belt remove broken or decayed fruit before the first wash. If the fruits are destined for juice, there is no additional waxing or fungicide applied.

Florida oranges quite often have scales on the outer peel. There are two types of these bugs—the armored and the soft-scale variety. There are five varieties of armored scales—the purple scale, the citrus snow scale, the Florida red scale, the Glover’s scale, and the chaff scale. There are three types of soft scales that affect Florida oranges—the Caribbean black scale, the brown soft scale, and the Florida wax scale. While infestations may vary and are often controlled by other parasites that lay their eggs within the bodies of the scales, thus killing them, there are occasional outbreaks of citrus snow scale infestations that require further spraying.

Industry consultants explain that, in regard to the larger commercial producers, there are basically two types of machinery that extract juice from oranges. In the Brown system, the fruit goes through a bed of hundreds of pins, and the juice is extracted from outside the peel. In the FMC system, a finger is inserted into the orange which squeezes out the juice from within.

A number of kashrus experts have been examining Tropicana as well as other brands of orange juice and have come to the conclusion that, quite often, there are at least one to two fully intact scale bugs in each cup that was tested. These experts are located in Brooklyn and Lakewood. One of the experts is a pioneer in the field of “tolaim” and has been instrumental in setting up bug-checking stations in commercial establishments across the country.

This author decided to test some four containers of Tropicana Pure Premium orange juice. The method of testing was to pour each cup through a Fischer Scientific 62-micron nylon mesh and then to place the nylon mesh over a light box.

The testing revealed that each cup of Tropicana Pure Premium had on average of between three and four scale bug parts in the juice that are visible to the naked eye on a light box. This was verified through the use of a USB microscope. In experiments conducted this week, about 1 in 20 cups actually revealed a fully intact scale bug. This is after examining four containers purchased in three locations, but admittedly within one week of each other.

Bringing these results up in discussions with at least three prominent kashrus consultants, it was concluded that it is difficult to state categorically at any given time whether a brand is infested or not. Rabbi Dovid Goldstein, a student of Rabbi Moshe Vaye from Jerusalem, informed the Five Towns Jewish Times of negotiations being currently conducted to work with one producer to create a high-end premium juice that is consistently scale-bug-free. Rabbi Goldstein has been instrumental in creating two of the inspection sites in Five Towns area grocery stores.

Halachic Analysis

There is an interesting debate in general between the Aruch HaShulchan (100:17) and other poskim regarding disgusting items. The Aruch HaShulchan writes that something disgusting is batel (becomes nullified) in a mixture of 60 to 1, even if it is in full creature form (the entire body of the item is extant). Other poskim (including the author of the Shulchan Aruch himself) hold that in full creature form, it is not nullified even in a ratio of 1000 to 1. It seems, however, that even the Aruch HaShulchan only wrote this just to justify those who consume such items, but did not mean it as an actual ruling.

However, since we are dealing with a liquid, we must still ask if this a prohibited ta’aroves, mixture.scale The Aruch HaShulchan (100:13–18) rules that in order for something to be considered a mixture, the bug or other item must be both visible and removable. In our case, if it is present, the bug is visible through the use of the 62-micron mesh filter. It is also removable.

What if someone does not have such a nylon mesh filter or a light box? It seems to this author, after discussion with two leading poskim, that if he needs to consume the food then and there, it is permitted. Ideally, however, if bugs are commonly found in the type of food under discussion, then the nylon mesh filter and light box should be acquired and used.

As far as the juice is concerned, while it does seem that the insect is completely intact in 1 in 20 cups of juice, the question arises as to whether this constitutes a “miyut ha’matzui” to necessitate filtering of the juice.

Many people are of the opinion that a miyut ha’matzui is 10 percent based upon a responsum of the Mishkenos Yaakov. Others are of the opinion that a miyut ha’matzui is anything over 6.66 percent. A third opinion (Sheivet HaLevi Vol. IV #81) is that miyut ha’matzui cannot be quantified statistically and varies depending upon the situation. It is this author’s understanding that Rav Elyashiv, zt’l, accepted the view of the Mishkenos Yaakov.

If one wishes to be stringent, one can, of course, stick to freshly squeezed orange juice in which no oils are added to the juice.

This author’s halachic conclusion is that technically, one may rely on the Mishkenos Yaakov.

What Tropicana Can Do

If the consumer were made aware that, according to many consultants, on average, a half-gallon container of Tropicana Pure Premium may contain anywhere from 2 to 16 fully intact scale bugs that can be readily seen by the naked eye, Tropicana might do something about it. What they can possibly do is (1) introduce additional high-powered washing cycles before the juices and oils are extracted from the oranges; (2) look into additional methods of removing the level of scale infestation in its juice oranges; and (3) adjust the filtering process and the centrifuging in the oil extraction process when adding the oils to exclude scale bugs.

The author can be reached at [email protected]

Note: Much of the information used for this article came from document Cir 1241 from the Pesticide Information Office of the University of Florida; an article entitled “A Novel Nonchemical Method for Quarantine Treatment of Fruits” in Commodity Treatment and Quarantine Entomology; Rabbi Vaye’s writings; and interviews with two juice-production consultants.

ARTICLE PUBLISHED BY 5TJT




36 COMMENTS

  1. “This author’s halachic conclusion is that technically, one may rely on the Mishkenos Yaakov”.

    Question: But what about buying and serving a quantity of over 20 cups at one time, which in this case it’s quite probable that there’s an insect completely intact in your serving???

    שומר נפשו ירחק מזה

  2. Rav Eliyashev, Z”L among others did not go with the Mishkanois Yaakov, and held that even way less than 10% is ossur.

    There many Rabonim that are not giving hashgochas on orange juice and have assered not only Tropicana but also Golden Flow, Lakewood farms. Dvash brand had much less scale insects than the others (as the ratio of water is higher) so the Rabonim have a sofek on dvash brand.

  3. The Tropicana insect issue was brought to the attention of the OK (per Tropicana) and the OK said “it doesn’t concern them at all.
    A consumer that called the OK re: the Tropicana insects, said only the tropicana without the OK is infested.

  4. My question is how is it that for hundreds of years, before commercial orange juice, frum Jews peeled and squeezed oranges at home, and so must have had scale bugs in their juice. How is it that for years Yidden ate lettuces and orange juice without these quandaries. Oranges weren’t waxed in years past, and no insecticides were used. Could it be that microscopic organisms that were not visible with the human eye were just considered beshogeg, an accidental occurrence over which there is no human control and there is no culpability? Now that these questions are being introduced does this make everyone Maizid, culpable for punishment, if they drink Tropicana and eat citrus?

  5. My comment above is based on the fact that Noone I have ever known in 50 years have ever seen a scale bug in A glass of Tropicana Orange Juice, nor on an orange. Despite the fact that in the article the author says they are visible, but they actually are not.

    Another question is why Tropicana cannot just pass all the juice through a micro screen filter to filter out all bugs. If a micro screen cannot filter out the bugs because they are too small, it proves they are not visible with the eye.

  6. For the sake of honest reporting, it should be noted that the same problem exists with most orange juices on the market. I dont know why the author singled out Tropicana.

  7. While I agree that one can be Meikel like the Mishkonos Yaakov that Miyut Hamotzi is 10% (especially since were only dealing with an Issur Dirabanan), like most of the Kashrus organizations are in fact Meikel (Including the Star K, and OU)and Reb Shlomo Zalman also wrote a Teshuva (brought in Rabbi Vay’s sefer) saying you can be Maikel like the mishkonos Yaakov.
    But what the author said that R’ Elyashiv also held like this, besides for the fact that Rabbi Vaye brings from Reb Elyashiv not like this, I am quite sure that there is a Teshuva in R’ Elyashiv’s Sefer, Kovetz Teshuvas, that also says not like the Mishkonos Yaakov.
    I would love to hear why the author is of the opinion that he held like the Mishkonos Yakkov.

  8. This yudel character seems to be just a trouble maker. I have been in touch with the ok this morning after reading the article and they are fully investigating the issue and doing whatever is necessary. That doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with it the way it is now, but if they conclude otherwise, they will do whatever is necessary to rectify the problem. They have already notified the ok of their concerns. So yudel stop being moitzie laaz and making machloikes on erev shabbos.

  9. If the article was “journalism” rather than an advertisement for a competing brand, then it would have interviewed the OK labs, and presented their response.

  10. Don’t you get it? The person who is writing this article is getting a kick back from lakewood farms. Maybe he or someone in his family owns a part of the company?

  11. I viewed the video. Please note that there are no close-ups or discussions of “scale bugs” in the video. In fact, the only insect discussed is a 5mm-long caterpillar (starting at 1:01). I think the author’s “Warning: It is not for the faint of heart,” is a bit tongue in cheek. Five mm is clearly visible, and you can tell it is a bug. When you get to the 1mm size, if it is not moving, it can be hard to see if it is a bug or speck of dirt unless it is moving. While we should be vigilant about not eating bugs, and indeed guard all mitzvos, it is important to learn as much practical halacha to ascertain that we are not making ourselves crazy. It is unreasonable to expect the kosher consumer to strain orange juice through nylon mesh filters when there are reliable kashrus agencies who employ halachically-competent and knowledgeable rabbonim to certify our food supply. Who am I to challenge OU, StarK, KCL or OK?

  12. As they say in yiddish ” Shtissim B’mitz Tapizim” Why dont we just pile on more chumros to make our kids go off the D. Have fun. (I’m Sure the company “willing” to produce the High end premium juice has such a big heart to do this “chessed” for the community. I’ve had enough of people creating halachic markets for their products, this phenomena has been going on in Israel for years and it is sadly trickling down to the us…) Golus.

  13. As yudel mentioned, Rav Elyashiv’s psak was not that of 10%, but closer to 7% based on the odds of finding a treifa in EY. I believe Rav Vaye mentions this in one of his volumes.

  14. The reaosn why its a problem, is becuase you make it into one. One could find an issue with anything to eat so do yourself a favor and starve yourself

  15. YIDDEN BE PREPARED SOON THE ONLY KOSHER FOOD AVAILABLE WILL BE VIA AN IV !!!It is sad. This is just another attempt by certain Rabbonim to keep them selves relevant. There is a blog based in Lakewood that I wont give his name as all he does is espouse Loshon Horah and SHEKER. He has been lambasting so many hashgochas and companies.his newest items on the traif list is Pineapple.

  16. The “shimushe shel Torah” by Rav Feldman was written some 60 years ago and he says that in “mitz-tapuzim” orange juice one can see the insects that are found on the ouside peel.

  17. To No. 10

    And many chasidish hechsherim, which many consider the gold standard of kashruth, assur drinking almost all of the large commercial brands of OJ for the very reasons cited by Rav. Hoffman. Just because some Litvasher chechsherim in Lakewood and the BMG crowd allow something doesn’t mean that most frum yidden accept it. This is a perfect example of why one should rely upon his/her local rav or posek.

  18. With all due respect, you are not correct on your understanding of the AH. The AH holds that it must be both visible and removable WHILE in the mixture to be assur. First removing it from the mixture, using a micro fiber filter, to be able to then see it, is NOT a “prohibited ta’aroves mixture”.
    Second, what do you mean by “if he needs to consume the juice now, he may”? Do you actually mean only in a case of halachic “need” or even “great need”? Which two leading poskim said this? Sounds to me like a needless chumra thrown on top of a misinterpreted AH…I wonder what else I might find with micron filters and a light box? Thank g-d some people still hold of R’ Moshe…

  19. Oh, and R’ Shlomo Zalman as well.

    On a side note, #3 is once again proof of our great loss of R’ Eliyashev not writing a sefer. All we now have is he said this, he said that. In one generation we might not even have that either. There are hundreds of achronim lost to the sands of time because of no seforim…there will be few definitive and reliable psakim from R’ Eliyashev because of this…

  20. dgama: What are you referring to as far as R’ Moshe and Rav Shlomo Zalman as well? If you’re referring to RSZ not being concerned about scale bugs, look in the newer prints of Shmiras Shabbos where Rav Neuwirth in different words says he was chozer bo (mindyou Rav Shachter doesn’t seem to like the diyuk).

  21. Mr. Sutton: You go and ask your Rav. This article is a perfect example as to why responsible people do not pasken halacha by what’s written on the internet.

  22. #31, with all due respect to Rav Neuwirth, even the Rambam’s own son (a rishon in his own right), and other rishonim and achronim’s children since (e.g., Rav Dovid Fienstein), were not given the authority or legitimacy of their father, when they said “he said this, or he meant that”. I know what it says in RSZ’s sefer. Period. What Rav Neuwirth holds himself is something else…

  23. “The method of testing was to pour each cup through a Fischer Scientific 62-micron nylon mesh and then to place the nylon mesh over a light box.

    The testing revealed that each cup of Tropicana Pure Premium had on average of between three and four scale bug parts in the juice that are visible to the naked eye on a light box.”

    Through a filter and then placed on a light box. Translation – without a filter and not placed on a light box, the organisms are NOT VISIBLE TO THE NAKED EYE. Hence, halachicly not a bug that is assur.

    What am I missing?