Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Don't Forget to Check the Gefilte Fish!

Some Guest Sarcasm by Akiva of Mystical Paths

Occasionally I'm overcome by something bit of frum society jumping the shark into complete wackiness. For those who haven't heard, we are currently suffering from the great fish scare of 5770. Seems fish can have worms! Who knew? Actually, the sages of the Gemora knew, and their halachic rulings on fish worms is firmly codified into Jewish law (which basically is, fish worms - not a halachic problem). No authority since has touched this halachic firm ground.

...Until this month when there was a halachic earthquake (of no similarity to Chile or Haiti). Suddenly a rav discovered that there's worms in fish! And it can't be that the Gemora would actually allow the eating of worms! So today's worms must be "new" worms, and the Gemora speaks of "old" worms. New worms are therefore treif, old worms (which must have been another not really visible kind, therefore being allowed) aren't around anymore - but if they were they'd be ok.

[ I should note that so far most authorities completely disagree with this position, and the O-U says it's bunk. So don't go running and throwing out all your fish just yet. ]

Now I'm not a halachic authority. I haven't reviewed the full arguments, nor am I qualified to determine whether the halachic reasoning is sound. However, I think I can spot when something just isn't right...

The following list came out from the Rabbinical Council of California (as published on Jerusalem Kosher News)...

Rabbinical Council of California - Fish Update 2/20/2010

The following are the preliminary findings of various fish experts. We will update this list as new information is received. The Anisakis worm is found in the following fish (frozen or fresh) and may not be eaten unless checked for worms. [Even with a hechscher]

Canned Salmon (wild)
Cod: Scrod, Hake
Flounder: Yellow Tail/ Wild Dabs/ Black Backs, Turbot, Yellow Fin Sole
Pacific Red Snapper (Eastern or Atlantic Red Snapper is a different variety and is OK)
Pollack – Alaskan – Fillet fish sticks or patties
Red Perch
Sable a.k.a Black Cod
Sardines – Norway, Scotland
Wild Salmon – All types
Yellow Fin Sole

The following fish do not require checking:

Farm Raised Salmon [E.g. Atlantic, Norwegian, Chilean, New Zealand, British Columbia)
Flounder – Only Fluke, Georgia Banks, Channel
Gefilte Fish
Herring fillet
Lox [Farm raised, if wild would state "wild"]
Minced Fish Sticks
Pollock - Atlantic
Sardines from Morocco, Philippines, Portugal
Sea Bass – Striped Bass, Grouper (Mexican), Blue Nose (New Zealand)
Whitefish: Michigan - Lake Superior [Some allow the Canadian as well}


Fish with white flesh can be checked [after the skin is removed) by shining a flashlight from underneath or holding up to a bright light. They may appear as extended worms or coiled in a circle. They are readily visible. Salmon or pink fish require an ultraviolet light and some expertise to check.

** So for me this list raised the following questions:

1. The Rabbinical Council of _California_ is making a world-wide psak? (Or just for California?)

2. Will the shining a light technique work if I place the light below an unopened can of wild salmon? Will it work on the cooked product (given that canned salmon is cooked prior to opening)? How does one hold a cooked juicy hunk of canned salmon up to the light?

3. Pollack - used for fish sticks or patties, can be checked for worms after being minced or ground for patties?

4. Checking Sardines? Could someone explain how this could be done?

5. Gefilte fish? Is this a Purim shpiel? There is no such thing as a gefilte fish! Rather, it’s ground fish of various varieties, some of which are on the NOT PERMITTED WITHOUT INSPECTION list above. “Traditionally, carp, pike, mullet, or whitefish are used to make gefilte fish, but more recently other fish with white flesh such as Nile Perch have been used, and there is a pink variation using salmon.”

6. Fish sticks appear on both lists! So which is it, check (as noted, how???) or not check? [See Pollack list 1, Minced list 2.] Further, fish sticks are made from “pollack or cod”, both of which are on the check list!

Seems to me that this list is confusing, conflicting, and not well thought out. Further I'm betting Gefilte Fish made the "don't check" list because nobody would even consider a list that declared Gefilte Fish treif. Disgusting maybe, but treif - never.

Search for more information about fishy halachic rulings at


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