Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tim Tams: "He never gave up hope, he never lost sight of his goal"

Guest post from Kosherman:

Readers of last week's AJN will notice the newspaper celebrating an extraordinary Yom Tov. No, I am not referring to Shavuot but rather to the exciting and fantastic news that Rabbi Moshe Gutnick has convinced Arnotts company to produce "Kosher" Tim Tams.

I must admit that those intellectual giants who administer the news on behalf of our community showed massive restraint when reporting this most amazing event in the history of the Australian Jewish community.
Yes, they actually limited the Tim Tam story to the front cover, an article on page 3 (squeezed in amongst a couple of molestation stories), a Kron cartoon and...drum editorial!!

To quote their excitement: “It is indeed a milestone that as of today, kosher consumers across Australia can walk into any supermarket or store or petrol station and purchase these iconic Australian biscuits,” gushed KA rabbinic administrator Rabbi Moshe Gutnick.
After all the recent public criticism of our rabbis - usually led by the  same AJN - isn't it  lovely to see them acknowledge that we still have warm-hearted rabbis who positively gush at the thought of Jews piling on the kilos. To quote: "He never gave up hope, he never lost sight of his goal"!

Though not the purpose of my post, a quick Google search will show that while the rabbi gushes on about his achievement, both he and the AJN fail to mention other issues associated with the product - health-wise and ethical.

If any reader is interested, here are a few links which show that there are others in the general community who won't recommend this delicacy:

This YouTube clip (WARNING: a non-tzeniusly dressed woman) lists all the unhealthy and even dangerous ingredients noted on the packaging.

And here's another clip.

And from this website:  The chocolate coating in Tim Tams is not made from cocoa, but a mixture of artificial colours of Tartrazine (102), Sunset Yellow (110), Allura Red (129), Brilliant Blue (133) and Caramel (150). These additives are all suspect carcinogens.

So despite becoming Kosher (and I am surprised at the AJN's excitement about this - it is usually full of advertisements for non-Kosher establishments and products), it is unclear if Tim Tams are good for you.

But back to the Kashrus issue.

Despite the well-known views of Rav M Moshe Feinstein zt'l who permitted the consumption of Chalav Akum (where there are govt supervision and penalties by the authorities for tampering or substitution), it is difficult these days, when Chalav Yisrael is readily available in nearly every communty of observant Jews, to find a Chareidi Rav who will these approve the use of  non-Kosher milk products. The fact is that most poskim hold that non-supervisied milk is actually 'treif' and if used in error the equipment has to be Kashered. This view is especially so amongst Chassidic groups - every single one. And Chabad, to the best of my knowledge, have certain stringencies regarding Chalav Yisroel that many other chassidim and Charedim don't require. Furthermore, even the Rabbanut Kashrut in Israel, which generally has lenient standards, is very strict on this.

See RabbiBakshi Doron re the psak of the Rabanut

A collection of quotes on the unacceptability of non-Kosher milk

So my question to the good rabbi is "Why?"
You being a thoroughly Frum Jew and a Chabad chassid who I have no doubt that Chalav Akum products have no place in your kitchen. Yes, I understand that being in charge of KA means that you must allow leniencies, especially for items that are necessary for certain groups of consumers. I refer to milk, butter etc.

But is it really so important that Australian Jewry gorge themselves with Original and Double-Coated Tim Tams?

I know that your NSWKA more or less stated (or admitted) that they have less stringent Kashrut standards that their Melbourne counterpart Kosher Australia. But really, is it necessary to go out of your way and make the effort to chase and convince Arnotts to produce 'Kosher' - Chalav Akum - chocolate biscuits? Is there really such a shortage in the 100% Kosher version? Rabbi, please visit Glicks, Grandma Moses (all which are under your supervision), Heimishe, Lichtenstein and the others in Melbourne and Sydney and you will be amazed what a range we already have.

Is it really the function of a Chassidic Rav to produce unnecessary and unhealthy products which are not 100% Kosher. After all, it's not as if Arnotts came begging to you for your Hechsher. By all accounts it was the other way around! In fact the front cover of this issue tells us that this Tim Tam 'miracle' was achieved "after a decade of hard work and  persuasion by the Kashrut Authority".
Imagine, wasting a decade for a half-Kosher unhealthy choclate snack!
Having written all this, today I received an email from that great crowd KCA warning us that only the 200gm (net) packets are acceptable (plus another few conditions).
Although the AJN article also mentioned this, my survey shows that very few people (like indeed myself) actually remember seeing these provisions. Thus anyone missing these may be consuming not only Chalav Akum but also tarfus!

I discussed this post over Yom Tov with my rabbi, who told me that though he agrees with my views 100% and encourages me to publish, he, for a number of reasons, could not publicly make these comments. I gently reminded him about לא תגורו מפני איש...

I have heard whispers that some in the Kashrut industry are getting worried about items being produced under Rabbi Meir Rabi and his "Kosher veYosher" Kashrut label. This is especially so now that Rabbi Rabi has publicly stated that his supervision aims to cater for those who are not overly stringent in their standards. I realise this may affect both KAs, but I suggest that you let him keep that sector of the Kosher market and you remain faithful to the more demanding standards that most Kashrut organisations worldwide are now seeking and which you often represent here in Australia,

And if that means not seeking out new customers like Tim Tams with its non-Kosher milk, so be it.
PS: I am trying to find the time to post my thoughts about that upstart Kashrut organsation "Kosher veYosher". Maybe in the next few days or weeks. 


  1. Kosherman from Sydney to EYWednesday, May 30, 2012 5:18:00 AM

    Kosherman claims that the ingredients in Tim Tams are harmful to one's health. I do not know whether or not this is correct, but there are many, many other foods produced with such ingredients, including under the strictest hechsherim. Here in EY there are a plethora of confectionery with artificial colourings and other such ingredients with hechsherim from Rav Landau, Chug Chasam Sofer, Edah Charedis, et al. These agencies quite rightly do not believe it to be their job to act as health inspectors. Kashrus is kashrus and the legality or ethics of producing unhealthy foods is another matter. Likewise with Tim Tams.

    In relation to non-chalav Yisroel milk, Rabbi Moshe Gutnick posted to the NSWKA Facebook Group explaining the KA's position on the supervision of such products. The NSWKA and Kosher Australia both supervise products with chalav akum, as do many major kosher agencies overseas - including the OU, OK, Star-K, and the London Bes Din. True, in EY all the charedi kashrus agencies require milk to be chalav Yisroel, but the Rabbanut will allow non-Chalav Yisroel milk powder. However, this is minhag EY, as are other stringencies that have not become the norm in CHUL (eg in EY the minhag is not to consume cottonseed oil on Pesach, whereas in the US, UK and Australia cottonseed oil is the common oil consumed on Pesach...). One cannot bring a proof from EY when the minhag hamakom differs from elsewhere.

    As for the legitimacy of consuming products with chalav akum given the availability of alternatives, this is a far broader question that has been addressed on many fora. The bottom line is that the vast majority of the kosher consuming public in the western world are not machmir when it comes to CY and the kashrus agencies cater to their needs given that there is a sound halachic basis for permitting such products.

    Chabad is indeed machmir when it comes to CY and many will not eat from non-CY keilim. One assumes that the Chabad rabbonim behind both the NSWKA and K-Australia likewise do not eat the products they supervise with chalav akum. However, they understand the needs, wants and mind set of the Australian kosher consumer which you, Kosherman, obviously do not. Kashrus standards have improved in Sydney and Melbourne significantly since the establishment of the NSWKA in the early 1990s and the amalgamation of agencies into Kosher Australia. Where there is scope for additional chumras to be followed, this is done by these agencies. However, chalav akum is a very difficult one that would significantly limit the range of foods available and cause undue hardship to the average Yid who wants to keep kosher.

    Some time ago I wrote to both the NSWKA and K-Oz asking about Chodosh. Both agencies, together with Adass, rely on the Bach in permitting the consumption of non-Chodosh products. This is a major kashrus issue that has not been addressed in Australia at all - Australia is one of the few countries without any system for identifying chodosh products for those who wish to be machmir. However, there are battles to fight and each agency has to see which chumras are viable to adopt and which must be put on the backburner.

  2. Kosherman from Sydney to EYWednesday, May 30, 2012 5:18:00 AM

    As for the efforts of the NSWKA in certifying Tim Tams, good on them I say. Like Vegemite, it brings a spirit of patriotic warmth to the hearts of Jews across the country and Aussie expats worldwide to know that they have become such valued citizens of this wonderful country that even the iconic food producers will cater to their needs. Every time I walk into a supermarket here in EY and see a packet of 20-shekel Tim Tams I think of my Aussie roots and thank HaShem Yisboroch that a taste from my borthplace is available here in my spiritual home.

    As for the limitations on the range of Tim Tams that are kosher, I have written to the AJN complaining that they did not make it clear that only packets with a "#" next to the use-by date and certain flavours and sizes are kosher. I am not holding my breath expecting any clarification or response.

    The only aspect of Kosherman's post that I concur with is his view of the "intellectual giants" at the AJN who have so little else to report that they devote a front cover and several articles to the kashrus of a biscuit!

  3. Kosherman from Sydney to EYWednesday, May 30, 2012 5:22:00 AM

    Sorry for posting several comments, but the site has a limit on characters permitted in the one post...

    The standards adopted by KvY/It's Kosher fall significantly short of the standards of the KA and Kosher Australia. KvY allowing, for example, cochineal in the Nestle Peters Ice Creams is a major no-no that no other kashrus agency worth its rabbis' smichas would allow....

  4. Thankyou very much Rabbi Moshe Gutnick from the kosher TimTam buyers of Adelaide (many of us celebrated the news). Batches of kosher TimTams have been exported to Israel for years. Now we can eat them in Australia.
    If, as one confused nutrition site says, 'the chocolate coating in Tim Tams is not made from cocoa, but a mixture of artificial colours' of yellow, red, blue and caramel then this would indeed be a miracle! It is chocolate and would taste just as good without any yellow, red or blue!
    Maybe the colours make the biscuit brown to match the chocolate. Unnecessary really.
    Thanks again Rabbi Gutnick for remembering those who prefer to buy Australian.
    And thanks from your kosher customers who are over 800KMs from Glick's, Grandma Moses, Heimishe and Lichtenstein's.
    Tasty..Mmm. Who's been eating my TimTams... only 3 left. Time for a L'Chaim to Rabbi Gutnick!

  5. Adelaide, I see your point and feel your simcha. However Kosherman was writing from the POV of frum and chassidic Jews who consider chalav akum to be treif and therefore the less consumed by those who have a different view the better.

    Rabbi Gutnick is a Chabad chasid whose movement is very strong on this.

    If he knows that according to his poskim the product is not kosher, shouldn't he refrain from chasing and begging Arnotts to allow him to kasher it?

  6. B'H
    As some one who does keep chalov israel and who may have to take a country position in order to address the material needs of myself and my son because of high city rents and food prices, I will welcome some leniencies in Kosher products that are pat akum being 'allowed'.
    In the country surrounds it is not always possible to keep as strict as one would like. Unless of course one can do one's own shechita and milk one's own sheep/goat/cow, then of course one can be as machmid as one wants and fearlessly sounder the direction of the Abishter.
    However the reality is there are Jews who do eat questionable things and do questionable things and we have to be realistic. Kosherman's stand is all very well in some of the mindsets of those immersed in sections of the Chabad ultra frum fairy land world of 'we are the holiest of the holy and pure as the driven snow etc etc,' but realistically speaking we live in a world that is far removed from perfection and we need to live by the halacha and shulchan aruch and not die for or be killed by chumras of those who see themselves as the standard bearers of what is real Kosher. I am not in any way endorsing Meir Rabi's kosher certification but I would go so far as to say those who would hold to his kasherut - it is better to be a little misguided and misled than being totally ignorant and apathetic to any standard of Kashrut. Nachon! shabbat shalom!

  7. I am aware of Kosherman's POV. Each person uses the kosher directories from Melbourne and Sydney guided by their chumra. The rabbinic advisers of both are generously considering ALL of us from the minimum stringency al pi halacha up.
    There are extensive products on both lists that are not chalav yisroel, not consumed by Chabad or Adass in general but to say such products are not kosher is wrong. In this case there is reliable supervision, in this case at one plant, of two lines of the range of that biscuit, clearly marked with a # symbol but you need to receive a letter from your kashrut authority to know that, not read it in the AJN.
    I agree with 'Kosherman from Sydney to EY' that cochineal (red colouring from crushed south american parasitic beetles)is a major no-no even at the lowest level of stringency. A couple of decades ago lard (pig fat)in the icecreams was the issue, not the milk. And I have lost count of how many sweets and cordials (including coloured chocolate buttons) that have been taken off the lists because the manufacturers used cochineal or carmine.
    Maybe we should be encouraging manufacturers not to use colouring. Not many people realise that margarine is normally a very pale colour (white like in the pesach tubs) and really doesn't need yellow colouring added to make it resemble butter.

  8. To Adelaide and Ilana, I don't totally disagree with you, but the fact is that I am getting impression from Rabbi Moshe Gutnick's statements and actions that he is trying quite hard to join Rabbi Meir Rabi at the lower end of Kashrut standards. IIRC he actually publicly wrote that his version of the KA follows a different (and obviously) lesser standard than does his brother in Melbourne.

    Personally I just hope that the Melb KA doesn't follow those 2 in dropping standards. That would then leave the more observant consumers to rely only on Adass, which has a far smaller list than the others.

    I well remember the days when the Mebourne Bth Din was in the Kashrus business and not a single self-respecting Kosher home (including the rabbis on that BD) would bring their products into their homes.

    I hope we don't revert to such a situation.

  9. Adelaide writes that "cochineal (red colouring from crushed south american parasitic beetles)is a major no-no even at the lowest level of stringency"

    While this may indeed be so, the fact is that one of the meforshim in Yoreh Deah clearly allows it.

    I saw it years ago and cannot immediately find it, but know doubt Mr Adelaide who seems to be something of a scholar will know what and where I mean.

    Thus, while I am not interested in consuming something that sounds disgusting, I would suggest that maybe cochineal is less 'non-kosher' than Chalav Akum.

  10. Ervin is referring to a responsum by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef Yabia Omer Yoreh Deah 8:11 that the final product (colouring) is radically altered from the original (a non-kosher insect). However, is it really? One would be deriving benefit from an insect by eating such a substance even if one is no longer consuming "an insect". This is not in the spirit of kashrut observance.
    With regard to Chalav Yisrael, Rav Moshe Feinstein issued a landmark ruling that governmental inspection of milk is enough. In an industrialised society the kosher consumer depends on this. But in Israel and in Russia they did not. There are plenty of stories of milk being adulterated with milk from non-kosher animals from both places in the past.
    I was intrigued to read in the AJN of 11 May 2012 (page 28 Melbourne or page 31 Sydney edition) that Shaul Gurewicz from Amalya Cafe in Caulfield, Victoria, comes to Hindmarsh Valley near Adelaide in SA to obtain co-branded cheeses and goat's milk products for their cafe: "The Gurewiczes laboured very hard to bring a range of products from Hindmarsh Valley under Kosher Australia's supervision for Cholov Yisroel standards".
    (So why aren't they in the Kosher Australia directory, AJN. Or is this a private hechsher label).
    It is a long way to travel to find a goat's milk dairy. Maybe goats over here are more kosher than in Victoria!! :D

  11. There seems to be another serious issue with Chalav Akum these days. I wonder if Rabbi Gutnick has checked this out.

    If I understand this correctly this is even worse than stam chalav akum and it created a storm in the US a few years ago.

  12. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  13. Apologies , I forgot to paste the link to the site discussing the serious problems with cows supplying non-kosher milk.

  14. Anononymous, you need to read the lines under Yudel's point 3: "The problem appears to be virtually non-existent in countries such as Australia and New Zealand where cattle are not normally fed grain but are simply allowed to graze in unconfined pastures".
    So Rabbi Gutnick NSW and Rabbi Gutnick VIC probably don't need to check out this one.
    We don't puncture the cows in Australia to let the gas out...they can let the gas out well enough by themselves!

  15. Adelaide (or whoever you really are) are you dismissing the view of RO Yosef?
    He is one of the most respected gedolei hador!

  16. I apologise. Adelaide is correct, this problem seems not to arise here. BH for that.

  17. Nissim, other gedolei hador including Rav Feinstein questioned Rav Yosef's responsum, see a summary article here:
    If one did follow his idea of "panim chadashot" then excuses would be made that cochineal, carmine, gelatine from non-kosher animals, calcium and non-essential health foods such as glucosamine from non-kosher fish or crustaceans, fish oil from non-kosher fish are somehow kosherized by processing. And where would it end?
    But I am just an ordinary kosher consumer and I have noted over the last 30 years that the kashrut organizations that I trust in Melbourne and Sydney do not follow Rav Yosef's responsum and later responsa were given by leading halachic decisors. And I don't follow his contested ruling is in conflict with my beliefs about kashrut.


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