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New York - Halachic Debate: Is It Ethical For The OU To Provide A 'Hechsher' On BeanBoozled Jelly Beans

Published on: November 20, 2008 10:55 AM
By: Five Town Jewish Times By By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
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New York - They are gross and disgusting, and they have the hechsher of the OU. No, we are not making a plug here for the Conservative attempt at creating an “ethical hechsher”; we are discussing Jelly Belly’s product line called BeanBoozled.

For those unfamiliar with this nasty confection, which came out earlier this year, a brief description: Jelly Belly BeanBoozled jelly beans: Weird and nasty flavors mixed with regular ones. The jelly beans come in twenty different flavors. Ten of the flavors are nasty and noxious flavors. They are matched up with ten regular flavors. The nasty flavors have nasty names associated with them. Is the black jelly bean Licorice-flavored, or is it actually the one called Skunk Spray? The blue bean could be Toothpaste, or it could be Blueberry. Other flavor pairings include Rotten Egg/Buttered Popcorn; Baby Wipes/Coconut; Pencil Shavings/Top Banana; Moldy Cheese/Caramel Corn … you get the idea.

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And now the halachic questions begin.

We start with berachos. The Shulchan Aruch (204:8) rules that foods and medicines consumed for medicinal purposes that have a good taste require a blessing. The Magen Avraham, based on Tosefos in Berachos (36a, “Keivan”), writes that to be exempt from a blessing, it must actually taste bad. It seems that this rule does not only apply to medicine; even vile-tasting food, if one is thoroughly repulsed by its taste, would be exempt.

Do these vile-tasting candies require a berachah? A quick survey of some teenage aficionados of this new food product revealed that, in fact, the criterion of “nafsho katzo mimeno—a person is disgusted by it” is clearly fulfilled. The criterion was further backed up by viewing the expression on the faces of the brave volunteers who gave of themselves so that this article may be written (thank you, C. W.) The volunteer running out of the room for water backed up the idea, too. And the final clincher is that the company that manufactures the vile-tasting jelly bean does not do so during regular factory hours—they do so at night, so the regular workers do not have to deal with the foul smells.

Now that we have established that a blessing is definitely not recited upon the rotten flavors, when faced with a jelly bean of undistinguishable origin—in other words, it might equally be Licorice flavor or Skunk Spray flavor—is a blessing recited? Many of us are familiar with the concept of “Safeik berachos lehakil”—whenever one has a doubt in regard to a blessing, one is lenient and the blessing is not recited. So here we have a legitimate doubt. Even by smelling it, one cannot distinguish between the good-tasting jelly bean and the vile-tasting one. Therefore, whenever one eats a BeanBoozled jelly bean, a blessing should not be recited. Our poskim have also advised us that we should not place ourselves in situations of a safeik berachah, where a blessing might be in order. Remember, if one partakes of food without having thanked the Creator, it is as if he has stolen from the Holy One Blessed Be He.

If one went ahead and partook of this doubtful jelly bean and subsequently discovered that it was his or her lucky day and that it was a good-tasting jelly bean after all, then a blessing must be recited. We run into another problem, however. King David wrote (Tehillim 71:8) the words, “My mouth shall be filled with Your praise.” Our rabbis tell us (Berachos 50b) that this verse alludes to the fact that when we recite a blessing, nothing should be in our mouths. Thus, after this person discovered that the jelly bean, in fact, is good and that a blessing must be recited, his mouth now has candy in it! The jelly bean will also become unappetizing if it is spit out, so the halachah allows the candy eater to push it to one side of the mouth and then recite the blessing, rather than spitting it out and wasting it.

This is not the ideal method of dealing with the food, however. It is best to initially recite the blessing on another type of jelly bean altogether, so one does not have this problem. When reciting the blessing, he should intend to include the additional jelly beans.

There are other halachic issues with this type of candy, too. Might there be a problem of borer involved on Shabbos? Borer only applies to situations where two different items are mixed together. When there is no true mixture, there is no problem of borer. Generally, if people do not care which part they get, the item is not considered a mixture. And if all the food is considered one min (one kind), then it is not a true mixture. (The TaZ holds that there is borer even if there is only one kind of item, but we do not rule in accordance with his view). Here they most certainly would care which one they were getting.

Finally, a third issue: Is someone permitted to give this candy to an unsuspecting person? Clearly the answer is a resounding no. The reasons are manifold. First, because of “Lifnei iver” for berachos. Second, it is an abnegation of the mitzvah of “V’ahavta l’reiacha kamocha,” loving your fellow neighbor as yourself. And finally, it is a violation of “Lo sonu ish es amiso,” the injunction to not afflict your fellow.

In light of the above, it is questionable how a kashrus organization can affix a hechsher on something so fraught with halachic peril—namely, the issue of reciting blessings incorrectly and the Biblical prohibitions of afflicting others. At a minimum, perhaps they should create a new designation: “OU–MBP,” for “must be pattured,” that is, it must be exempted from the recitation of a blessing by being eaten with another food.



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Read Comments (27)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Nov 20, 2008 at 11:18 AM Anonymous Says:

Thanks for the laugh! I have to find some for some people I know....

2

 Nov 20, 2008 at 11:13 AM NJG Says:

I really don't see what the tremendous deal is. Like the author says, make a shehakol on something else first, and the beracha issue is solved. As far as the bad taste goes, people are buying this product because they WANT to eat it; it's a novelty food item. That's the whole point. Sure, it tastes bad, but people are eating it because they are curious what it tastes like. The question of whether to make a beracha or not is moot, since they have already made it on another item.

As far as the OU goes, the OU is not a legislative body- they don't decide if a product should have a beracha or which beracha it should have. Their only concern is: does a particular product meet the OU's standard of kashrut, from a technical perspective. That's why, as reprehensible as Agriprocessors' labor practices may have been, the OU could not disqualify their hashgacha because technically, all kashrut requirements were being met. There are plenty of products certified by the OU that are unhealthy- laden with sugars, trans fats, food dyes, etc., but the OU still certifies them if they are technically kosher.

3

 Nov 20, 2008 at 11:11 AM Anonymous Says:

a hechsher has nothing to do with a bracha just that the food is koshur. you can then make a bracha on it if you have a problum with it, dont eat it!! or make a shehakol on something else. the OU dosnt write on its products a bracha for the food so what is your problum again? just say there is a problum with what bracha to make on the food but that dosnt make it not kosher. there are stories of talmidei chachamim who didt eat things b/c they didt know what bracha to make on it BUT that dosnt make a food not kosher!!!

4

 Nov 20, 2008 at 11:25 AM Joe Says:

Whats the issue. go make a shehakol on something else before eating the beans if there is a safek. It is the same for many other foods on which we are mesupak what bracha to make. You eat something else which you are certain and make a bracha on that before eating the safek.

As far as lifnei Iver you could say the same thing about things which others are allergic too, should we not have hechshers on peanuts?

5

 Nov 20, 2008 at 11:25 AM Random Jew Says:

Um, maybe because the ingredients are kosher and the processing plant is watched over appropriately? Should bread not have a hechsher because people might think you should make a mezonot? Olives because an olive right from a tree does not get a bracha and thus someone might get confused?

My kashrut questions go to a kashrut agency. My stam halacha questions go to my regular rav.

6

 Nov 20, 2008 at 11:08 AM Big Masmid Says:

whats the Big deal, out there we find many products that dont tickle us fancy and still have a Hechsher.

7

 Nov 20, 2008 at 11:05 AM Chaim S. Says:

Chanuka comes before Purim this year. Hold this shaila until Purim and have your Purim Rov explain it all to you.

8

 Nov 20, 2008 at 11:03 AM ha Says:

sounds like this junk is all the rage on flatbush! i see plenty of shalach manos shtick coming about! move over red hots, here come bean boozeled at every fancy candy store in the heimishe shtodt!

9

 Nov 20, 2008 at 11:51 AM kudos to vin editor Says:

Nice pilpul with the wrinkle of subtly tying in OU/Agri.

To NJG, who writes "As far as the OU goes, the OU is not a legislative body...Their only concern is: does a particular product meet the OU's standard of kashrut, from a technical perspective. That's why, as reprehensible as Agriprocessors' labor practices may have been, the OU could not disqualify their hashgacha because technically, all kashrut requirements were being met."

You are right in your distinction with what OU THEORETICALLY can and cannot do, except that OU/Genack disagrees with you - point in fact Agri where you write OU could not disqualify them - the OU/Genack DID threaten to pull their hashgacha because of non-ingredient related issues.

Your point "There are plenty of products certified by the OU that are unhealthy- laden with sugars, trans fats, food dyes, etc., but the OU still certifies them if they are technically kosher" is again logical, but it seems you have selective attention to the news. The OU feels it can dicate behaviour to a company it endorses. And this is also where Hechsher Tzedek comes in.

So the point of this article is to latch on to OU's murky position. If it felt it OK to go beyond ingredients, should it not also be concerned with other halachas?

Of course this article's question is absurd, but only if you agree that OU's position with Agri was absurd, and just as absurd it would be for a kashrus agency to address healthiness of ingredients.

The OU-Agri face-off brought to light a fundamental quesition that I think is a no-brainer. Food Hechsher is to be an extremely narrow field - yes a mile deep, but very narrow - verify that the food product conatins only kosher ingredients.
Yet, I surprisingly find that many poople can even argue about expanding the agency role, and amazingly some even want to make a new type of hechsher.

It's nauseating for me to see no-brained people, but I guess I must learn that - to each his own.

I certainly would be repulsed by a hechsher tzedek movement, and I certainly was repulsed by OU/Genack's. I'm just dissapointed that it gets real airtime and respectagbility. Too bad on me for setting such expectations on other people, industry, etc..

10

 Nov 20, 2008 at 12:17 PM almsot a rabbi Says:

Another way to avoid the safek bracha, and to not be an idiot would be to break the jellybean at hand into two. This lets one SMELL the inside of said bean, avoiding halachic s'feikos. The real safek at hand, is why any thinking individual would eat a candy that may taste like skunk.... a modern day Teiku I suppose...

11

 Nov 20, 2008 at 12:16 PM Anonymous Says:

the writer of this article must be kidding he lives here in the the five towns no less and he doesnt know the saying "voss tit men nisht far parnoosa"
what type of question does he have to the OU if people will pay for their hecher theyll give it to them providing it meets a minimum kashrus standard the brocho issue isnt there responsibility ask your local rabbi about which brocho to make if your so keen on eating these unedible beans

12

 Nov 20, 2008 at 12:12 PM Anonymous Says:

if your wife messed up on a recipe and it wont tast like its meant to. Are you allowed to eat it without a brocho?

13

 Nov 20, 2008 at 11:28 AM MAYER PORUSH Says:

ALL A HECHSHER AS OU SAYS, IS THAT THE PRODUCT IS KOSHER ! NOT WHERE/WHEN U CAN EAT IT OR WHAT BROCHA TO MAKE ETC.!! ONCE YOU START BEING AN "ENDE TZADDIK" AND BLURR THE LINES ITS A SLIPPERY SLOPE!!!

14

 Nov 20, 2008 at 11:27 AM Satmar 101 Says:

To avoid all these problems, I suggest that you be "koviah seuda" on bread and then eat it with the bread, and no beracha would be required, even to those who would say that Jelly Beans are not part of the seudah. It would also avoid the problem, if you happened to bite into the foul smelling or the one with the foul taste.

15

 Nov 20, 2008 at 12:20 PM almost a rabbi Says:

As an aside, I appologize for my punctuation, grammar, proper spelling and vocabulary. I hope I havent offended anyone. :-P

16

 Nov 20, 2008 at 01:10 PM Anonymous Says:

According to RAMAH it's won't qualify as a dvar shel mius. No shayle!

17

 Nov 20, 2008 at 01:18 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #16  
Anonymous Says:

According to RAMAH it's won't qualify as a dvar shel mius. No shayle!

how does the RAMAH refer to black skunk flavor candy in his writings?

18

 Nov 20, 2008 at 02:07 PM Deepthinker Says:

ALL Jellybeans are forbidden, because SAKANTA CHAMURA MEI-ISSURA!--Pure poison: Sugar, food coloring, artificial flavors and chemical preservatives--guaranteed to shorten your life and make you sick and weak.

19

 Nov 20, 2008 at 03:06 PM Anonymous Says:

I don't know what you guys are talking about - this happens to be a brilliant article with lotsof infomation that I did not know. He has a good way of teaching haluchos!

20

 Nov 20, 2008 at 03:00 PM Concerned Member Says:

Firstly #13 is correct. The OU is telling you that the ingredients used to make the product are kosher, that the product was prepared in a kosher facility etc etc. That's all.

#18, as far as your comment goes there are numerous other foods that should fall under your p'sak including p'cha, certain kugels and food served at many takeout places with enough grease to keep your car's engine running for 5 years.

21

 Nov 20, 2008 at 03:12 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #18  
Deepthinker Says:

ALL Jellybeans are forbidden, because SAKANTA CHAMURA MEI-ISSURA!--Pure poison: Sugar, food coloring, artificial flavors and chemical preservatives--guaranteed to shorten your life and make you sick and weak.

if that's the case, please have a few on all of us!

what a mishigas.

22

 Nov 20, 2008 at 04:20 PM yid Says:

ARE YOU ALL IDIOTS ????????

IT'S JUST CHILDRENS CANDY !!!!!

23

 Nov 20, 2008 at 04:58 PM Anonymous Says:

There are hechsherim on many non-edible products (i.e. soap)and has nothing to do with eating

24

 Nov 20, 2008 at 05:48 PM Anonymous Says:

Maybe this is a good opportunity to suggest that the baal machshir who knows what the food contains should also add what bracha is required in addition to his hashgacha.

25

 Nov 20, 2008 at 10:40 PM murray Says:

Reply to #18  
Deepthinker Says:

ALL Jellybeans are forbidden, because SAKANTA CHAMURA MEI-ISSURA!--Pure poison: Sugar, food coloring, artificial flavors and chemical preservatives--guaranteed to shorten your life and make you sick and weak.

You are right. Its like putting a hecksher on cigarettes.

26

 Nov 21, 2008 at 01:24 AM Anonymous Says:

I must admit, sitting around a table with the family, from ages 14/15 until age 28 And our parents, with a box of these Jelly Beans was a fun experience. Trying to guess, Facial expressions, Random reactions, Fun ideas, Comments, etc.. I think some of you people should try it, you'd truly be surprised how much fun you'll all have.
(Don't knock me until you try, please.)

27

 Nov 24, 2008 at 02:12 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #22  
yid Says:

ARE YOU ALL IDIOTS ????????

IT'S JUST CHILDRENS CANDY !!!!!

Right it's just children's candy. The fact that make vomit flaored jelly beans not withstanding (yes they really do) I have no problem with the anyone giving a hechsher on these items. I DO have a problem with the idiots that manufacture, the rabbanim that give a hechsher, and the parents that buy things like LEGO candy. That's right. Teach your little kids to eat things that look like little bite size building blocks. That's smart.

28

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