Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

12 Shevat 5764 - February 4, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Bedikas Hamozone Cahalochoh

by Rav Moshe Vaye
Reviewed by D. Plaut

Volume 2

This article is translated excerpts from HaRav Vaye's new Hebrew book that includes information about infestation in fruits and how to check them (see review).

Because of the practical importance of this material, we are making an exception in this case and including the graphical material that accompanies the article in print which illustrate infestation in some common fruits.

When the first volume of HaRav M. Vaye's widely acclaimed sefer, Bedikas Hamozone Cahalochoh (in Hebrew) was published, the author promised additional volumes detailing the checking of other food groups. (The first volume covered the general halochos of insects in food and how to check vegetables). Whoever read the first volume has been eagerly awaiting the appearance of its sequel, and now, in time for Tu BeShevat, volume II, describing how to check fruit and nuts -- as well as fish and miscellaneous animal- based foods -- is available.

Even a cursory perusal of the sefer shows that during the intervening years the author has been hard at work, and that he has put out a work of unusual beauty, completeness, and precision. It includes over 250 color photographs, which take the guesswork out of checking. The illustrations show what the insects look like and the recommended procedure for cleaning or checking the foods, as well as natural growth defects in fruits which may arouse suspicion, but are not really indicative of infestation.

In the first section, on fruit, there are actual-sized and enlarged photos of the various insects that may be found in fruit, including fruit-fly maggots (found in peaches, nectarines, guava, etc.), scales (commonly found on citrus fruit), and moth larvae (found in carob, apples, plums, nuts, etc.), plus a detailed description of the insects' appearance, life cycle, and development.

This is followed by an alphabetized listing of each individual fruit and nut, explaining which insects it is prone to harbor, how strong the likelihood is of each of these insects being present, and the procedure for removing the infestation. Accompanying each description (usually on the facing page) are several photographs with captions, which graphically illustrate the text.

The second section follows the same format for fish, and also discusses possible problems with meat, eggs, honey, etc.

It is a source of pride to Rav Vaye that his research and the dissemination of his findings, rather than discouraging people from eating various foods, enable the consumption of most foods in a permissible way. He invests a good deal of time in developing easy, effective methods for removing the different types of insects so that we can enjoy the variety of food that the Creator provided in the world without transgressing any Torah prohibitions.

This Hebrew sefer is a highly useful reference volume which belongs in every Torah-observant home.

An English translation of the first volume is at an advanced stage of preparation.

In honor of Tu BeShevat and in honor of the publication of the new book, we have translated several entries that are of particular interest.


The fruit is marketed when it is moist and soft, and insects attach themselves to it and absorb its moisture. The strawberry's exterior is covered with seeds, hairs and small indentations and, at the top, by a green leaf. These may all screen insects, whose tiny size, similarity to the seeds and attachment to the fruit, make them very difficult to notice. A surface inspection is therefore insufficient; only a thorough cleansing ensures that all insects have been removed.

Stage 1. Preparation for Cleaning

1. It is best to purchase high-quality strawberries that are firm and well shaped, preferably without any crevices or folds.

2. Insects can collect on the leaf's upper or lower surfaces, or on the fruit directly underneath it. The leaf should therefore be removed together with a thin layer of the fruit beneath it (about a millimeter thick), using a sharp knife. Pulling the leaf off by hand leaves a hole in the fruit that interferes with the cleaning.

3. If there is a crevice, a fold or a hole in the strawberry's surface, that area should also be cut away. If the crevice extends to the inner cavity, the fruit should be cut in half and inspected to see if any insects have penetrated inside.

4. If the fruit is pulpy, that area should be removed and the fruit halved and checked since insects sometimes penetrate.

5. It is advisable to halve all the strawberries before rinsing them, so that if any insects have penetrated, they will be removed. Alternatively, they can be halved after rinsing and the inner cavity checked.

Stage 2. Cleaning

Method A

1. The strawberries should be immersed in water that contains a small amount of dishwashing liquid (preferably non- perfumed) for approximately three minutes.

2. The water with the soaking strawberries should then be stirred by moving one's hand gently in a circular motion.

3. The strawberries should be rinsed in a forceful stream of water as follows:

Take a handful of strawberries (between six to ten of them) and rinse them well under a fast-running tap, turning them over from side to side so that the water washes each fruit on all sides. This should be done to all the strawberries.

A colander with large holes, such as is used for vegetables, can be used, rinsing one to two hundred grams of fruit each time, taking care to expose them on all sides.

After rinsing, the fruit can be consumed without any further inspection. This method does not spoil the fruit's appearance.

Method B

This method is suitable for large, nice-looking strawberries.

1. The strawberries should be prepared as for Method A.

2. Take an individual strawberry and hold it under a running tap, brushing it gently but thoroughly on all sides using a soft brush.

This should be done to every strawberry.

This method can be adopted on an industrial scale, by using machines with soft brushes to clean the strawberries.


1: Buy firm, well-shaped strawberries.

2. Remove the green leaf, together with a millimeter's thickness of the fruit, as well as any folds, crevices, or damaged areas.

3. Soak the fruits in cleansing fluid for three minutes or so.

4. Rinse all the strawberries thoroughly under a fast-running tap.

Dried Apricots

Dried apricots are sometimes infested and they require checking. The fruit can be affected while on the tree and, although the insects die during the drying process, they remain whole. Infestation can also take place afterwards, during the drying or during lengthy storage.

Method of Checking

1. Whole Apricots -- The two halves of the fruit should be separated and examined against a source of light, such as a desk lamp or a well-lit window. Any foreign body in the fruit should be checked to see whether it is a maggot of the apricot moth or a fruit fly grub.

Small flies, ants or brown insects may be attached to the fruit's exterior. On the other hand, small black pieces of dirt with no specific shape are of no concern.

One frequently sees brownish-reddish dots, similar to freckles, scattered over the outer surface. These are due to defective growth and are not scale insects.

Infestation by mites is encountered less frequently. If small white specks, like white sand, are discernible in the packaging or on the fruit, they should be examined to ascertain whether they are mites, whose presence will be confirmed if the specks can be seen to be moving slowly. By closely watching two adjacent specks, it should be possible to see whether or not the distance between them is changing. If mites are definitely present, none of the fruits from that package should be used.

The mites are clearly identifiable as creatures when viewed using a ten-power magnifying glass. In some cases, there may be white specks on the fruit that do not separate when rubbed gently. These are due to the fruits' natural growth and are not an indication of infestation. Fruit infested with mites tends to be of inferior quality and to be more moist than usual.


Dark, Israeli-grown raisins are frequently infested and must be checked. Light, Israeli-grown raisins are sometimes infested and should be checked. California raisins are also sometimes infested and should be checked.

Method of Checking

Stage 1. Checking Quality

Check for accumulation of dark particles on the raisins or on the sides of the packaging. This is a sign of moth infestation.

Stage 2. Soaking in Water

As they dry, the raisins become shriveled and sticky. Insects may become attached to them and be concealed between surface folds. The raisins should thus be separated from each other and soaked in warm water for approximately ten minutes. The water should be stirred with circular motions and then left to settle.

The uppermost level of the water should be poured into a white plate and examined for any floating worms or flies. Alternatively, the water can be strained through a white cloth or filter paper, which should then be examined thoroughly for any insects. If signs of infestation are found, it is preferable to refrain from using the raisins, because it is difficult to check them so as to be absolutely sure that they are clean.


Fresh dates, with smooth, dark brown skin, that are marketed refrigerated or frozen, are free of infestation and do not require checking.

Dried dates that are cultivated in the ordinary way are sometimes infested and should be checked. Organically grown dates have a very high rate of infestation and must be checked.

Dates can become infested on the tree, during the drying process or during protracted storage. Insects can penetrate the fruit, where they usually die, remaining stuck to the flesh. Their dark color, which is similar to that of the fruit, makes it difficult to see them. One sometimes sees a small, circular hole on the date's surface. This is due to a type of beetle that makes its way into the date while it is ripening, usually leaving it at a later stage and leaving its hole behind. Caterpillars can cause small dark specks and sticky cobweb-like material inside the date, which cannot be seen unless the date is opened. Occasionally, scale insects can be found attached to the exterior. A date whose sepal is still attached is more likely to be infested.

Method of Checking

The insects that infest dates have the same coloration as the fruit and it is difficult to spot them simply by looking at it. The dates should be checked against a source of light such as an electric bulb, a light table, or a well-lit window. Against such light, the date appears translucent and any foreign body upon it can be seen.

The date should then be cut in half, preferably by knife, and the pit removed. It should be opened and both sides should be checked against a source of light. Any dark shadow should be investigated to see whether it is an insect or a caterpillar, in which case it should be removed together with a little of the surrounding fruit. Fragments of peel and pieces of dirt may adhere to the date. If one can clearly see that dark patches are not insect-shaped, there is no need to remove them.

Yellow Dates

If the skin is not attached to the flesh, it should either be removed or pressed onto the fruit prior to checking the date against a source of light. It is good to rinse the date before it is eaten.

During prolonged storage, small white sugar crystals may collect, mainly underneath the skin. These are of no concern. Likewise, dark areas of flesh have no significance.

Bug-Free Fruits

The following fruits do not have to be checked (assuming they have no holes, and no soft spots). This addresses only the presence of bugs, and not other kashrus questions that may arise.

1. Avocado

2. Coconut

3. Kiwi

4. Pear

5. Star-fruit

6. Fresh dates (sold frozen)

7. Pecan in shell

8. Candied esrog

9. Candied kumquats

10. Candied apricots

11. Candied peaches

12. Dried apples

13. Dried mango

14. Dried papaya

15. Fruit leather (in closed wrapper)


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