Not All Foods Require Kosher Supervision
KAS [KA Sydney] insist that honey requires [meaning it is NOT Kosher without] a recognised Hechsher.
Star-K disagree, "Check the label to verify that it is 100% pure honey"
Star-K have only two concerns:
A] honey may be flavoured;
B] despite the MBerurah's Pesak that there is no issue, Star-K argue it may contain corn syrup which they think is a problem during Pesach.
Rabbi Yosef Caro, the principal authority for Halacha, the author of our Shulchan Aruch and also the Beis Yosef commentary on the Tur, writes in his Sh”O, Yoreh Deah Chapter 114 seif 7, that oil and honey acquired from gentiles is Kosher.
From Non-Kosher Utensils
This ruling is quite surprising. These foods are processed in a non-Kosher kitchen; not a commercial kitchen but a regular domestic kitchen. This kitchen is used for all the gentile family’s non-Kosher cooking.
Without a Kosher Supervisor
In this same kitchen, using its very non-Kosher utensils and without a Kosher supervisor to verify that non-Kosher ingredients are not added; oils and honey are heated and processed and yet may nevertheless be purchased as a Kosher product. Many Kosher certifiers today, presumably driven by opportunities to make a profit, insist that pure honey is not Kosher without a Hechsher.
The same is true of bread produced in such a kitchen. According to Torah Law this bread is Kosher.
Kosher milk is derived from any Kosher beast. Chalav Yisrael is Kosher milk that has been monitored from the beginning of its milking and onwards. By Torah Law, we may consume milk from a non Jewish farmer. The risks of contamination with non-Kosher milk do not register on the Torah’s scale for Kashrus concerns. Kosher supervision is a Rabbininc requirement.
Kosher wine is free of non-K ingredients and also has not been used in Pagan worship. By Torah Law we may drink wine manufactured or handled by a pagan; it is only the wine that has been used in pagan worship that is prohibited.
Why are These Foods Different?
If we may eat oil and honey from the non-Jewish, non-Kosher, unsupervised kitchen, then why may we not eat bread or drink milk from the non-Jewish, unsupervised manufacturer?
The answer is of course that we may.
According to Torah Law we may drink the unsupervised Gentile’s milk. According to Torah Law we may eat the same dairy’s cheese, just as we may eat the bread baked in the Gentile’s non-Kosher, unsupervised kitchen. However, our Sages decreed that these, and other foods, are to be restricted by additional requirements.
Our Sages forbade the Nochri’s bread if baked for their own use but permitted the same bread if produced for sale. (Pas Palter. ShO YD 112:3) There are two Kosher standards: Pas Yisrael is bread in which a Jew has participated in the baking process, Pas Palter is any bread baked by a Gentile, provided it is not baked for private use. Furthermore, breads even if baked for personal use, are Kosher if not made of the five grain types. (ShO YD 112:1)
In the case of milk, supervision is required. In the case of cheese there is a dispute many understanding that a Jew must actually run the process that converts the milk to curds.
Our Sages similarly decreed that wine although Kosher by Torah Law, is not Kosher if handled by a pagan. However, there is a difference between an active and a non-active pagan. An active pagan prohibits the wine from all benefit. A non active pagan will only prohibit consumption; the wine may be used in business and for other purposes.
The decree restricting a Gentile’s bread appears to be guided by practicalities. It would have been entirely impractical to prohibit even Pas Palter. As far as decrees go, it would have been a white elephant. In fact, the Talmud records the failure of one such decree where our Sages legislated to prohibit oils prepared by Gentiles. It failed because it was not accepted by the populace. At the time they had no police to enforce such a decree, but even if they had, no police force on earth could monitor and enforce such decrees. Even more importantly, our Sages did not wish and did not attempt to impose decrees by force. All their decrees relied upon the willingness of the people to accept them and voluntarily apply them.
This same concern seems to be shaping the architecture of the decree banning foods cooked by Gentiles. Some foods cooked by Gentiles are not Kosher whilst others are Kosher. Only foods that meet two conditions are banned, namely that they are,
a) not edible in the raw state,
b) when cooked are suited to be served at a festive banquet.
Why did our Sages not ban all foods cooked by non-Jews? What difference is there between foods that do meet the two conditions and other foods? What is the difference between a potato and an apple? Why will the same chef in the same kitchen create through his cooking, a non-Kosher baked potato but potato chips or crisps that are Kosher?
It appears that this decree was tailored to be tolerable and not be rejected as happened with the decree against oil. It would have been intolerable to ban all foods cooked by Gentiles.
There seems to be a similar strategy in the ban against wine. Firstly, the distinction between active and non-active pagans seems to be a device to lessen the expanse of the decree. Secondly, why is it only wine that is banned? A pagan can make any food or movable item prohibited by using it for pagan service? Just try imagining a Kosher world where all foods and furniture owned at one time by a pagan are banned.
It appears that these bans were designed to assist the population resist forces that would tempt homogenisation of our culture within the host culture in which we found ourselves stranded for many centuries. And judging by the outcomes we see in history that differentiate the destiny of the Jews from other peoples of the world; we must applaud our Sages for their vision and wisdom. We too, the ordinary people must be congratulated for recognising the value of our heritage and safeguarding it by embracing these decrees.