Sep 10, 2020

Ukranian Coca Cola reawakens kashrut debate

The saga of [Ukranian-produced] Coca Cola, with or without a hechsher, continues. It has become the gift that keeps on giving.

The most recent announcement of Badatz Machzikei Hadaas being allowed into the Ukranian factory to supervise and certify the Coca Cola as kosher has caused shock waves through the kashrut industry and has re-opened the never-ending debate as to the status of Coca Cola.

According to Kikar, the debate is now raging, once again, with some claiming that only Rav Landau and the OU know the "secret ingredient" of Coca Cola and therefore only they can certify it as kosher, and any Cola without a hechsher can't be kosher,  and anybody else certifying Coca Cola as kosher is doing a poor job and is unreliable because he does not know the ingredients. 

Opposite that is the claim that the ingredients are not secret, but the amounts of each ingredient is what is secret, so anyone authorized by Coca Cola to enter a factory and certify is able to with no need to know the amount of each specific ingredient. These kashrut experts claim that the claim that only the OU and Rav Landau know and can authorize is not true but is simply meant as a way for them to keep their monopoly and control over the market.

The anonymous kashrut expert quoted in the article says that even without permanent full time supervision in the Ukranian factory, one can drink the Coca Cola produced there, just as haredim across Europe drink Coca Cola from this factory with no kashrut certification. And now Machzikei Hadas is even supervising this factory that used to have no certification at all but was still producing Cola consumed by haredim all over Europe.

Anonther anonymosu kashrut expert is quoted as saying one cannot accuse Rav Landau of saying not to drink uncertified Cola just to protect his monopoly. As proof, he points out, Rav Landau said one can drink Sprite anywhere int he world without a hechsher, yet he gives the hechsher on that too in Israel, so why would he not want to protect that monopoly and say not to drink without? Clearly that is not the reason, but only the kashrut issue is the reason. And, he says, there is an official statement from Coca Cola that only Rav Landau and the OU know the ingredients.

I can get the debate regarding Coca cola without a hechsher. I know plenty of people who say that without a hechsher it cannot be relied upon, and I know plenty, ncluding reliabel kashrut organizations, that say Coca Cola can be drunk throughout Europe without a hechsher, and others that say Coca Cola is kosher everywhere even without a hechsher. If there is no hechsher I can understand the debate, no matter which side you take in it. But now there is a hechsher ont his Ukranian factory. That is a whole different ballgame. You dont rely on Machzikei Hadas, don't drink it. But it has a hechsher and anyone who relies on Machzikei Hadas can drink Coca Cola from the Ukraine. It has supervision and it has a hechsher. Maybe the statement form Coca Cola about Rav Landau and the OU is old and maybe now Machzikei Hadas knows it as well, or maybe they were given a list of ingredients without knowing exactly which ones are used, but the entire list is kosher, or however they worked it out - if the Badatz Machzikei Hadas is a reliable hechsher for you, bottom's up.







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8 comments:

  1. I am finding your coverage of this topic very interesting. I am going to throw in another curve ball that may or may not factor into this debate.

    We manufacture coffee (and other products). The coffee is made of 100% Arabica coffee beans. The flavored coffees have artificial flavouring. From time to time we have customers who want to know what the ingredients are. That includes cases where there may be an allergy to a particular flavor.

    Those ingredients are approved by the FDA under GRAS designation. The ingredients are considered a trade secret and do not have to be shared. The FDA gives approval even though they do not necessarily know the specific ingredients. Why does not this fall into the same category of the Coca Cola debate.

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  2. interesting but how does the FDA know what's in it to give it GRAS designation? Does the company supply the FDA with a list of all ingredients plus others and say all our flavors are made from these, without identifying which ones are actually in any given flavor? that is like what many have always said how it works with coca cola. a list was supplied with many ingredients, and the entire list was approved, though the rabbi doesnt necessarily know which items of the list are actually in the product

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. FDA is concerned with safety not necessarily ingredients. The manufacturer has to prove to the FDA that they have protocols in place to make sure that products they are producing are safe.

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  3. Where is the syrup for Coca Cola made? Does every plant make their own or is it made in one place and distributed? If it is distributed, maybe there is a hechsher on that distributed package.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. good question. I dont know the answer but based on the issue I would guess that at least some, if not all, of the factories make their own. otherwise it wouldnt be an issue

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    2. If they make their own, the how secret is the formula?

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    3. Was going to give similar reply.

      There are two kashrut issues:
      The concentrate (petel) which is supposedly made in one plant in Atlanta under OU supervision (originally Rabbi Tuvia Tibias Geffen, Rav of Atlanta. Later Rav Simcha Elberg, who gave the first regular daf yomi shiur in America. Both of whom definitely had the actual secret formula.)
      Then the OU took over, they're very evasive of what they know, meaning they don't have it.

      2. Then there's the local bottling plant. They add sugar or corn syrup (Pesach issues), water (out of US, Coca Cola Corp will check the water quality, and often will upgrade the local water supply), who knows what else. The local hashgacha checks the concentrate is real Coca Cola, and checks that grape juice or milk was not in the processing line before the Coca Cola production.

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    4. thanks. if this process is correct, then giving hechsherim to local factories by other kashrut organizations should really not be a big deal at all.

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