Cholov Yisroel versus Cholov Stam

By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for the Five Towns Jewish Times What is Cholov Yisroel exactly, and what is its history? For those who may be unaware, the Mishnah in tractate Avodah Zarah (35b) forbids the consumption of milk that a gentile had milked unless a Jew supervises the milking process. This is the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch as well (See Yore Deah 115:1), the authoritative code of Jewish law. The prohibition is called “chalav akum.” On the other hand, milk that was supervised by a Jew is called “Cholov Yisroel.” RABBINIC IN ORIGIN The prohibition is rabbinic in origin and, according to all halachic authorities, there is no question that it is a serious prohibition that is still in force. The question rather is, does the prohibition also apply to milk produced under some form of a government regulation? Those that certify Hershey bars and Häagen-Dazs ice cream claim that the government regulations exempt the milk from the requirement of the Mishna. Others are more stringent and disagree. The leading halachic authority who exempted government regulated milk from the requirement of the Mishna was Rabbi Moshe Feinstein zt”l, one of the leading Poskim of the 20th century (See Igros Moshe YD I #47 and #49 and YD III #17). Indeed, Rabbi Feinstein even coined the term “Cholov Stam” to describe and differentiate government regulated milk from Cholov Yisroel milk that is actually supervised by observant Jews. Most of the Chasidic world, never accepted the leniency. In Israel things are slightly different than in the United States regarding the labeling of Kosher dairy from outside of Israel. The Chief Rabbinate permits chalav akum milk powder, and does not and never permitted chalav akum liquid milk. The distinction between liquid milk and milk powder was argued in the early 1940’s by Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank, the former Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, and in many circles has been a more accepted leniency than the heter espoused by Rabbi Feinstein. IS THE ORIGINAL BASIS FOR HETER STILL THERE? There is also a growing number of people within the Orthodox Jewish community who claim that the original basis for allowing the consumption of Chalav Stam may no longer be there. Is it true? Has the Federal government of the United States changed its guidelines? During Rav Moshe Feinstein zatzal’s lifetime, the Food and Drug Administration of the Department of Health and Human Services would test dairy plants for specific fat contents. Government inspectors would take milk samples and inspect fat and casein ratios. If there was any irregularity an investigation could be launched. It was upon this basis that Rav Feinstein ruled that the “fear” of the government inspection on the part of the dairy owner constituted a “fictitious or virtual Jew” who oversaw the milk production. He ruled that there was an “Anan Sahadi” – where the whole world testifies that the dairy owner is not adulterating the milk with other milk from a non-kosher source. According to the Orthodox Union, however, the situation has changed somewhat. The December ’08 edition of the Kashrus newsletter of the OU reported a new basis for a leniency, but does report changes. The link on their site referenced is no longer active (Formerly index.php /articles/ single_print/1377721) Now milk samples are only analyzed for bacteria counts … Continue reading Cholov Yisroel versus Cholov Stam