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Food & Drink

Several Types of Fish Under Attack as Unfit for Kosher Label

Lock up your lox, smoked fish are under assault!

A group of ultra-orthodox rabbis from New York have declared several types of fish, including wild salmon, unfit to be called kosher because they can contain tiny parasitic worms that can escape the organs of the fish and find their way into the meat. 

In the organization's opinion, observant Jews can no longer safely eat many versions of salted and smoked delicacies like lox, nova and sable, traditional favorites during the upcoming Passover season.

The critter in question, the Anisakis, is a tiny worm that can cause serious intestinal problems in humans if ingested alive. But freezing or cooking the host fish usually kills it, rendering the food it has infested harmless. 

However, Jewish teachings prohibit the consumption of visible parasites, whether they are alive or dead, particularly ones that enter the meat after the host animal has died -- though the interpretation of the rules is continually open to debate.

Jack Lebewohl of 2nd Avenue Deli, one of the top kosher restaurants in New York City, discounts the recommendation, saying "there are special laws that deal with this, and all of the mainstream rabbis say it’s kosher, there are no problems."

Rabbi Moshe Elefant of the Union of Orthodox Congregations of America, the world’s largest kosher certifier, says his organization has examined the situation and has determined that everything is fine, but that "we appreciate people coming up with new issues and making sure that the food we eat is really kosher."

Along with salmon from the Pacific Northwest, the rabbis of Chevra Mehadrin have issued a list of over a dozen fish that are susceptible to Anisakis infestation, declaring them unfit to eat. These include certain kinds of cod, halibut, and several other breeds.

Asked how he expects the rabbis' pronouncement to affect business, Lebewohl laughed. 

"Zero," he said. "I’m not even going to say one percent. Zero."