Jun 2, 2009

The Supreme Court paskens the bracha of Pringles

The debate about what bracha to make on Pringles is probably about as old as Pringles themselves are.
Pringles are very similar to real potato chips, but in actuality are not made from potatoes, but from processed potato flour mixed with other ingredients. Hence the debate about what bracha to make.

A quick search for sources on the Internet leads to the following opinions:
  • Ha'Adama is the appropriate bracha according to: Rav Belsky quoting Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and Rav Elyashiv. As well, according to this article from the YU website quoting Rav Abadi who references Rav Aharon Kotler...
  • She'HaKol is the appropriate bracha according to: Ohr Sameyach in the name of Rav Meier Bransdorfer. The Brachot website quotes Rav Bodner as saying it is a shehakol, but accepts that some opinions claim ha'adama..HalachaNet from Shema Yisrael also paskens She'Hakol..
Clearly, both sides of the debate have strong halachic backing.

The British Supreme Court has now come out with a psak, deciding on an appeal by the VAT authorities from an earlier court ruling in favor of Procter and Gamble declaring it a snack and not a potato chip, base don the use of potato flour and not potatoes, along with the content level and mixtures. The ramification for them is what level of taxes they have to pay.

The Supreme Court overruled the earlier decision and decided that Pringles are in fact potato chips, despite the content issue.

Britain’s Supreme Court of Judicature has answered a question that has long puzzled late-night dorm-room snackers: What, exactly, is a Pringle? With citations ranging from Baroness Hale of Richmond to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Lord Justice Robin Jacob concluded that, legally, it is a potato chip.
The Supreme Court of Judicature had little patience with Procter & Gamble’s lawyerly attempts to break out of the potato chip category. The company argued that to be “made of potato” Pringles would have to be all potato, or nearly so. If so, Lord Justice Jacob noted, “a marmalade made using both oranges and grapefruit would be made of neither — a nonsense conclusion.”
In other words, sometimes you just have to call them as you see them.

Conservatives like to insist that their judges are strict constructionists, giving the Constitution and statutes their precise meaning and no more, while judges like Ms. Sotomayor are activists. But there is no magic right way to interpret terms like “free speech” or “due process” — or potato chip. Nor is either ideological camp wholly strict or wholly activist. Liberal judges tend to be expansive about things like equal protection, while conservatives read more into ones like “the right to bear arms.”

In the end, as Lord Justice Jacob noted, a judge can only look at the relevant factors and draw an overall impression. His common-sense approach was a rebuke not only to Procter & Gamble, but to everyone out there who insists that the only way to read laws correctly is to read them strictly.

I wonder if the British Supreme Court ruling would have any affect on how poskim look at the chip and if from either side of the great Pringles debate a posek would change his opinion because of it...


  1. urely, you mean "crisp." :)

  2. I guess the only debate left is matiring agunas now that they decided this shailo finally!

  3. Did you hear the air raid siren today? I just realized now that I didnt hear it at all - and neither did anyone else in my Beis medrash? Is there someone that we should inform?

  4. Anonymous -- call pikud haoref at 1207. You should also call your local municipality.

  5. anonymous -
    what are you doing reading this blog in your beis medrash. You don;t want the owner of this blog to be liable for your bittul torah

  6. "I wonder if the British Supreme Court ruling would have any affect on how poskim look at the chip and if from either side of the great Pringles debate a posek would change his opinion because of it..."

    I sure hope to G-d that no posek would do such a thing. It would bespeak a total inferiority complex vis-a-vis the secular legal judgment.

    Brachos are not a matter of establishing molecular identity.
    To my impoverished understanding
    brachos are the expression of our emotion of gratitude to G-d by appreciating what He has made for our nutrition and enjoyment.

    If some food-stuff is not recognizable as a potato or any particular fruit or vegetable, TO MY SENSES, then my emotion of appreciation to G-d is not naturally going to be for His making potatoes. It's for making "this food-stuff" Thus a shehakol.

    My emotion of gratitude is elicited most powerfully by my own direct experience.
    To make a ho-adamah simply because that's what a chemical lab analysis determines the food to be, is to totally cerebrealize the bracha and suck out it's emotional factor.

    Making brachos should never be reduced to a technical exercise of correctly identifying a given food.

    (I imagine the opinions of those who say a Ho-adama should be made is because this chip is so typical of whole potatoes in every that our senses realize its made from potatoes anyway.)

  7. FKM - thank you. I enjoyed your explanation


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