Pump Up The Flavor


A Vaad gives its certification to Starbucks in one part of the country where the flavors are kosher.

As far as I can see (from the customer side of the counter), the flavor shots come from pumps inserted into the bottles. These pumps have a small reservoir around the neck of the bottle that contains the flavor shot (which is refilled as the shot is pumped out). This reservoir is 'full' of the flavored syrup as long as the pump is on the bottle.

I believe I learned that treif liquid in a container for more than 24 hours will render the container treif. If the pump is taken from a treif flavor, washed, and then put into a bottle of kosher flavor, won't the kosher flavor in the reservoir for more than 24 hours take the ta'am from the container?

Let's assume both cases: where the pump is eino ben yomo and where it is ben yomo. If it is eino ben yomo, we are OK as it is a ta'am lifgam. But I am assuming that the pumps are not used only for one flavor and are not washed completely within every 24-hour period, since the flavor bottles can sit for many days before being fully used and are hence ben yomo.

So my question is, if the ta'am does transfer as I think it does, how can the flavor shot be kosher if the treif pump is used again for a kosher flavor within 24 hours?

My only thought is that we can use a sfeik sfeika: (1) we do not know if the pump has been used within 24 hours; and (2) we don't know if it was on a kosher or treif flavor before. Hence it would be OK.

Your thoughts?


There is some information anyone who has been to Starbucks surely knows that you did not include. I have not been to Starbucks and can only guess that this flavoring is only used cold. Right?

I understand that the bottles of flavors are discarded after being finished but the pumps are washed and reused. These pumps concern you. Apparently, they have a neck that is made of a material that may absorb ta'am. Is there a straw in the center of the pump that also draws the flavoring through it? If so, would your question apply to that as well?

What material are these necks made of? Plastic, metal or glass?

We have studied the halachos of kavush kemivushal together. According to these halachos, any liquid soaked in a vessel for 24 hours passes flavor to and from the vessel. If a treif soup is in a bowl (that is made of a material that absorbs ta'am), the bowl will also become treif. That bowl if heated can transfer that ta'am into other food, rendering the food cooked in the bowl treif. But soaking kosher food in the bowl for 24 hours can never make the kosher food treif despite the fact that it will absorb the flavor from the bowl after 24 hours through the process of kavush kemivushal. Why?

Since it takes 24 hours for the ta'am to leave the bowl, by the time the flavor leaves it is already a ta'am lifgam and cannot make the next food forbidden.

Now let's discuss these Starbucks flavorings.

hilchos kashrus. The treif flavorings sat in these pump necks for more than 24 hours and conveyed a prohibited ta'am to them. Now kosher flavorings have been in the necks for 24 hours and have absorbed the treif flavor. Is that ta'am issur, ta'am lishvach or ta'am lifgam? It can only be a ta'am lifgam, since it was extracted through the rule of kavush, which mandates a 24-hour waiting period, and that waiting period incidentally, ruins the flavor, preventing it from making anything else forbidden (because of a sefeik sefeika, remember?).

So Starbucks has pumps that have a ta'am issur lifgam in them. The kosher coffee and flavorings are still kosher, bedi'avad, but how can we buy the coffee knowing that treif utensils will be used and will inject a ta'am issur lifgam into our kosher coffee?

The Ramo (Y.D. 121:5) permits using a treif utensil on an irregular basis if it will be used for cold foods only. The logic is that even if a utensil has absorbed a non-kosher flavor it cannot transfer that flavor without some medium that halacha recognizes, such as heat, pressure on a sharp food or soaking. If the non-kosher utensil has been cleansed of all residual food matter on its surface, what can possibly go wrong? Therefore, if one is in the home of a gentile and is served kosher food with treif but clean dishes and cutlery, one may use them. Similarly, if a person has already purchased a non-kosher utensil and does not have a substitute utensil to use, he can use the treif one.[1] However, the Ramo rules that using treif utensils on a long-term basis for cold food is prohibited, since they might inadvertently be used with heat and the taam lifgam may be transferred.

This source cannot be readily used as a leniency in your case. Only if the pumps were consistently used for kosher flavors for less than 24 hours could we rely on this ruling by the Ramo. Purchasing coffee at Starbucks may be analogous to using a gentile's utensils in the gentile's home on an irregular basis. If, however, we knew that just as the non-kosher flavors stay in the pumps for more than 24 hours (thereby transferring a treif taam to the pumps), the kosher flavors also stay in the pumps for more than 24 hours (and will absorb the flavor in the pumps), the previously mentioned ruling by the Ramo does not help. The Ramo only permits using a treif utensil when no flavor is transferred.

In fact, from the Ramo's stringency regarding long-term use of treif utensils due to concern that one might heat up the utensil and let treif (pagum) flavor into the food, it is clear that halacha is concerned with any possibility of transference of a taam issur even if it is pagum. Surely one may not intentionally use a treif utensil in a way that will transfer flavor to the kosher food, even if that flavor is a taam pagum and cannot make the food forbidden.

This brings us back to your problem: How can a hechsher be given to Starbucks coffee if they use pumps that have absorbed taam pagum of a prohibited food?

The distinction between lechatchila and bedi'avad is basically the difference between the permissibility of an action preceding an event or subsequent to the event. For instance, adding a taam issur that is eino ben yomo (or any taam pagum) to food is prohibited lechatchila and permitted bedi'avad. That means that one cannot use a treif eino ben yomo pot to cook kosher food, but if the food was already cooked, it is kosher and may be eaten.[2]

Now consider a situation in which a gentile used an eino ben yomo utensil, a taam pagum entered kosher food, and a Jew wishes to purchase that food. Is that a case of bedi'avad since the food has already absorbed the taam pagum and is therefore muttar for a Jew to eat and even purchase? Or is it to be considered a case of lechatchila since the mixing of taam pagum and food did not happen to the Jew's food and he will not suffer any loss by not buying the food other than the inconvenience of not having that food? In other words, perhaps the bedi'avad-based dispensation is relevant when the Jewish owner of the food would otherwise suffer a monetary loss, but if the mixing took place while the food belonged to a gentile, a Jew is not permitted to purchase it.

The Ramo (Y.D. 108:1) indicates that purchasing food from a gentile is an instance of lechatchila and a Jew cannot purchase food from a gentile that is only permitted bedi'avad, even if the mixing already took place. However, in another book by him, Toras Chatos (35:1), he writes that the accepted custom is to be lenient on this issue and one may purchase food from a gentile that has already had a ta'am issur lifgam added to it. He cites the accepted practice in Cracow of purchasing roasted chestnuts from gentiles on the street even though the grill was used for treif food and was eino ben yomo at the time the chestnuts were roasted.[3]

However, a Jew may not ask a gentile to cook kosher food for him knowing that the gentile will use a treif utensil. That is considered lechatchila. Similarly, if the gentile prepared the food specifically for the Jew, the Jew may not purchase it.[4]

Applying this information to Starbucks coffee and the treif pumps we have been discussing, I can understand why a Vaad would permit Jewish customers to use the kosher flavorings. Even though the flavoring is added to the customer's coffee at the customer's request and the flavoring that has a ta'am issur lifgam is added specifically for the Jew, nonetheless, according to the accepted minhag requesting the flavoring should be permitted.

The ta'am issur lifgam was already absorbed in the kosher flavorings before the Jew ordered his flavoring. The bitul took place under the ownership of the gentile regardless of the Jew's purchase. This is similar to the chestnuts that had already been roasted on the treif grill before the Jew asked to buy some. The poskim prohibit a Jew from asking the gentile to use the treif utensil, which would inevitably extract the ta'am pagum from the treif utensil for the sake of the Jew. That is considered lechatchila, since the ta'am issur has yet to be absorbed. An analogous case would be if a Jew orders a flavor that has to be prepared, the gentile cleans a pump to insert into a bottle of kosher flavoring, and the Jew waits 24 hours before receiving his coffee. That is highly unlikely to happen.

For clarity's sake I will review what I think was your error. You considered a pump that had treif flavoring in it for the past 24 hours or more, a ta'am issur ben yomo and thought that the ta'am issur will be absorbed in the kosher flavoring as a ben yomo. Now you realize that although the treif flavor absorbed by the pump during the first 24 hours is a ta'am issur ben yomo, however, by the time the flavor leaves the pump it will be eino ben yomo, since it is only being soaked and no heat is being applied.

You understood that if the forbidden flavor is eino ben yomo one may order that flavoring. I have elaborated as to why that is true despite the prohibition against using an eino ben yomo utensil.

In light of this discussion, the sefeik sefeika you mentioned is non-existent. Each pump was probably used at one time or another for a treif flavoring that remained in it for more than 24 hours. That makes each pump treif with ta'am lifgam.

I would like to emphasize that I have never had coffee in Starbucks (as may be obvious to anyone reading this since I probably have been inaccurate about some details) and do not know that Starbucks is in fact kosher. This discussion is based entirely on the information presented.

BookID: 2 Chapter: 108

[1]See Shach Y.D. 121:11.

[2]Whenever something is permitted bedi'avad, this is an indication that the issur lechatchila is only midderabonan, since if something is assur min hatorah it will be forbidden even bedi'avad.

When a small amount of forbidden food is mixed into a large amount of permitted food and is batel beshishim, the final product is permitted bedi'avad but the act of mixing it in is forbidden lechatchila. The act of mixing the forbidden food into the permitted food is prohibited midderabonan.

There is an issur midderabonan on using an eino ben yomo due to concern that one may end up using a ben yomo as well.

היינו גזירה אינו בן יומו אטו בן יומו.

[3] The Taz (Y.D. 108:4) quotes Toras Chatos and apparently concurs, rejecting the opinion of the Ramo mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch.

[4] See Darkhei Teshuva (108:20), which quotes the Rashbash (560) as adding this point.

The Maharam of Lublin (Teshuvos 104) agrees but rules that as long as the food was prepared for the general use of gentiles, even if the gentile knows that a Jew may buy the product, once the ta'am pagum has been absorbed by the food while owned by a gentile, a Jew may purchase it. Therefore, even if a Jewish mashgiach supervises production to ascertain that no treif ingredients are included in the product, and clearly Jews will be interested in purchasing it, the mashgiach can watch the gentiles use their treif eino ben yomo utensils and Jews can still buy the product since it wasn't made specifically for them.

The Chasam Sofer (Y.D. 82) applies the idea of the Maharam of Lublin to another case. Some of a Jew's milk cows may have been attacked and become treif; hence, their milk is possibly treif. However, when all the cows are milked together, the proportion of potentially treif milk is less than a sixtieth and would have been batel beshishim if all the milk had been placed in one container. The Jewish farmer is not allowed to mix the treif milk into the kosher milk (ein mevatlin issur lechatchila). The Chasam Sofer advised the Jewish farmer to sell the livestock to a gentile and after the treif milk has been diluted in sixty parts of kosher milk it can be purchased by Jewish customers. The Chasam Sofer's chiddush is his application of the principle to a case of bitul beshishim. Until now, we have discussed mixing a ta'am lifgam into food owned by a gentile. The Radvaz (vol. 3, 978, or 547 in earlier editions) seems to draw a distinction between bitul beshishim and ta'am lifgam with respect to purchases from a gentile. The difference is that ta'am pagum is technically kosher whereas regarding bitul beshishim a prohibited food will be rendered permitted, (see Yad Avrohom Y.D. 89). The Chasam Sofer, however, permits purchases of food that would otherwise be forbidden if the forbidden part was already batel under the ownership of the gentile.

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