I just received an email blurb touting PestCatch, a small pest detection kit apparently designed for the kosher consumer who wants to reduce their insect consumption.
I'm somewhat puzzled by the marketing of this product. On their benefits page (which looks like it was composed by someone with a poor command of English), they suggest that PestCatch is suitable for large agricultural operations ("check large quantities of produce", "spot-monitor crops to save money on unnecessary pesticide treatments"), but it is obvious that it is a modest product that is really designed for small-scale, home use.
Here's what you get for your 45 smackeroos:
- One metal colander
- One pot
- Two filters
- One 10x magnifying glass
Heaven forfend that I be seen as belittling the need for the kosher consumer to check for insects. Although the average person consumes one to two pounds of flies, maggots and mites per year, most of it is presumably bits and pieces, which is much less of a concern from a kashrut perspective than eating a complete bug or insect. The OK veggie checking guide states that eating an insect violates seven Torah prohibitions (they neglect to mention that this is only for a whole, winged insect). But let's be reasonable, folks! If you are afraid that your broccoli may be infested, give it a good washing in a bowl, then pour the water through a paper towel or coffee filter. If you can't see bugs on the paper using the naked eye, enjoy your veggies! (And feel free to send me some of money that you saved by not buying PestCatch or a Star-K approved light table.)
One of the biggest scams related to this is the certification of bagged salad greens. It's amazing how many kosher consumers feel that they have to buy bagged salad with a hechsher! I have NEVER found a bug in non-certified bagged greens. This stuff is really washed well, and I challenge anyone to find a significant difference between certified and uncertified greens. Companies are always watching the bottom line, and they can't risk the consumer uproar that would result if they were to sell infested bags of salad. Besides, the kashrut agencies operate largely by chazakah with bagged salad, inspecting only samples. Ask yourself - what added benefit do these agencies provide (other than to their bottom line)?
On the other hand, I almost always find bugs on romaine, and therefore check it carefully. (As an aside, the most infested batch of romaine that I ever had was ironically from Alei Katif; supposedly it is insect free, having been grown in hermetically sealed greenhouses. I mistakenly thought that I'd be saving a ton of time inspecting the maror for the seder. The upside is that I now save money buying generic romaine.) Other fresh fruits & veggies that the OK says to check, but for which I have never, ever seen a bug (at least after a light rinsing) include celery, mushrooms (except when I gather them wild), blueberries, strawberries, sprouts, and most others.
Either my experience is anomalous or the kashrut organizations search out infested crops for their scare tactics - and the more folks they scare, the more demand there is for their hech$her.