Monday, June 13, 2011

Things That Don't Need a Hechsher

For an introduction to hechshers, read  What Are Hechshers and Why Do I Care? Now let's go more in-depth to hechshers. Conversion candidates and others new to kashrut get hechsher-dependent and get anxious about eating anything without a hechsher because we don't trust our own knowledge (or may still lack that knowledge).

What kinds of products have hechshers? In theory, something you would eat or might potentially consume (like swallowing toothpaste). But for reasons unknown to me (unless it's about easy money), you will find hechshers all over the place, particularly on cleaning products. I don't intend to eat my dishsoap or bleach, but I'm glad to know that I could eat it if it were physically possible. On the other hand, not all consumable items require a hechsher.

In short: A) Not everything that has a hechsher requires one, and B) You can consume certain items even without a hechsher.

The simplest example of A is cleaning products. The simplest example of B is fruits and vegetables (though fruits and veggies may require washing to rid them of potential bugs, but that is a different topic).

Now here is a convenient list of many common items in your house (and belly) that do not require a hechsher in order to be theoretically kosher for use, barring a problem with other laws of kashrut.

Non-Edible Items (Or So I Would Hope)
Aluminum foil
Cling wrap
Cleaning products (including dish soap and oven cleaner)
Cupcake wrappers
Unflavored dental floss
Gloves (for example, dishwashing gloves)
Mouthwash (If you always spit it out. And ask your rabbi anyway.)
Paper plates
Pet food (Can NOT use pet foods that combine meat and dairy. For easier Pesachs, I suggest using a kosher-for-Pesach pet food year-round. Do NOT feed this food with kosher utensils.)
Plastic drinking cups
Plastic silverware
Silver polish
Toothpaste (though some people hold that toothpaste does require a hechsher because you may swallow it)

Edible Items
Unflavored apple sauce (unless there are flavorings or additives)
Unflavored domestic beers (some include imported unflavored beers)
Unflavored cocoa (as opposed to cocoa mix)
Corn starch (make sure to check for bugs)
Unflavored coffees, both caffeinated and decaf
Unflavored, unseasoned, uncooked couscous
Extra virgin olive oil
Unflavored gin (as opposed to sloe gin)
Raw grains
Whole fish
Plain flour (make sure to check for bugs)
Fresh fruits and veggies (but need proper preparation)
Unflavored honey (liquid)
Unflavored molasses
Raw nuts
Raw oats
Olives (if packed in salt water and ferrous gluconate, and/or lactic acid - and NOT from Israel - see "produce from Israel" below)
Plain, unpopped popcorn (aka, not even butter)
Plain raisins
Plain rice (make sure to check for bugs)
Unflavored tea
Tap water/Bottled water (Generally, yes. Some rabbis disagree because of bugs that may be in the water or other issues.)
Filtered water (for example, from your Brita filter)
Frozen vegetables (most are alright without certification, assuming there are no oils or sauces - Note that some kinds of frozen veggies are difficult to check for bugs, such as broccoli)
Unflavored domestic vodkas (make sure it isn't made from grapes)

Items NOT on this List (AKA: Consult your rabbi)
GRAPE FLAVORING: Always requires a hechsher! Unless they're fresh grapes. This can also cause issues of mevushal/non-mevushal (up-coming post!).
Other alcoholic beverages (case-by-case depending on the alcohol, flavorings, and sometimes even bottling/manufacturing location)
Chapstick/Lip gloss
Cough drops
Cut fish
Foods from Israel (there are tithes that must be taken from produce in Israel. If a product is produce from Israel, it ALWAYS requires a hechsher. This includes spices and seasonings.)
Canned fruit
Dried fruit
Fruit juices (Grape products ALWAYS require a hechsher)
Herbal tea (requires certification)
Peanut butter (requires a hechsher because of oils used)
Spices (almost always requires a hechsher)
Tennessee whiskeys
Canned vegetables

NOTE: Just because produce has a hechsher does NOT mean it complies with other halachic requirements, such as washing fruits and veggies for bugs.


  1. Popcorn: Raw kernels ,sure. But popped popcorn (even air popped) is more problematic.

  2. A) Popcorn - that was my mistake. I only thought of unpopped popcorn because I was thinking of the grocery store context. To be fair, cooking the popcorn is another halachic issue, which is covered by my disclaimer that other halachic issues must be taken into account :P That said, I'll correct it.

    B) Where do you think I got the information for this list?? I basically compiled those 3 lists into 1 list, but noted the differences between them using the third grouping (and some notations in the first 2 groupings).

  3. i was told dishwashing soap needs hechsher-we have here also...

  4. Thanks! This is summarized into a user-friendly format! You have done a great job!

    1. What's the problem with olives from ISRAEL?

    2. Anonymous #2, the problem with olives from Israel is that it is produce from Israel. As noted in the last category, produce from Israel needs a hechsher because there are tithes that must be taken from produce in Israel. If a product is produce from Israel, it ALWAYS requires a hechsher. This includes spices and seasonings. I'll edit the text to prevent confusion in the future! Thanks for bringing that to my attention!

    3. because of mase and shana shmita

  5. what about cold pressed sunflower oil? does it need a hechsher?

  6. The Star-K says that unflavored herbal tea does not need certification:

  7. How about matcha? It's unflavored green tea in powered form. So then, it should be fine?

  8. Does anyone know if paper plates, cups, bowls require a hechsher?
    Also- does plastic cutlery require a hechsher?

    1. As stated above, these things are inedible and do not require a hechsher.

  9. What about dried soy beans and making my own tofu with it?