Every year 7-Eleven produces enough Slurpees to fill 12 Olympic-sized pools. And frum Jews are more likely than ever to buy them. The ingredients are supposedly simple – soda and ice – so what could be wrong with this satisfying fizz? Aside from the trademark brain freeze of course.
Join an insightful conversation between Rabbi Yitzchok Hisiger and Rabbi Sholem Fishbane, Director of Kashrus for the Chicago Rabbinical Council, and the Executive Director of AKO. Enjoy the Q&A discussing the complexities in buying slurpees.
Let’s discuss something that comes up all the time for the young and old: Slurpees. May one purchase a Slurpee in a Wawa, a 7-Eleven, or a QuickChek? If yes, what should people know about them?
Great question. Slurpees is actually owned by 7-Eleven, so let’s start with them. The only part of the machine you see is the dispenser. Behind it is a hose, which goes to the flavor base boxes in the back room. If the flavor base is kosher, the Slurpee is kosher. So the very best way to buy a Slurpee or slushie is to go to a 7-Eleven that’s certified. But what if they don’t have a hashgacha, which is the vast majority? Go to the cashier and say, “I keep kosher. Is it okay if I look at the flavor box?” If you see a reliable hechsher on the box, you’re good to go.
Will I see the kashrus symbol on these boxes?
Usually not. But you can check out our list on the cRc website, crckosher.org, or on our app, and our office will be happy to email it to anybody that needs it. We list what’s kosher by brand and flavor. Then, even if it doesn’t have a hechsher on the box, you can drink it. But what if they don’t let you see the box? Some flavors are not kosher, or dairy, cholov stam. Surprisingly, you can rely on the word Coca-Cola. Because Coca-Cola also audits to make sure 7-Eleven is using its name honestly. They don’t want you to taste an off-brand under their name. Coca-Cola actually has their own mashgichim that come unannounced.
So in the kashrus vernacular, there’s a mirsas?*
Somewhat. Loosely related to the Halacha of mirsas.
So if you want a Slurpee, here are the three scenarios: The best is if the store has a hechsher. Second best is to personally verify the hechsher from the box in the back. Next is being someich on a kosher national brand.
Now, that’s for 7-Eleven because they carry national brands. What about the Wawas, QuickCheks, and other places? There have been occasional stories where an off brand has been substituted, and therefore one should be more vigilant in ensuring that the flavor is indeed kosher.
You mentioned dairy and the non-kosher flavors. Is it a problem that they’re in the same machine?
That’s a great question because it’s a sheilah of kavush. Let me tell you, I delved deep into the icy pool of how Slurpees are made. It’s a complicated science: how long it takes to make them, at what temperature, and how long it actually stays in the barrel, and how often it gets replaced. The short answer is that it doesn’t stay long enough to be deemed kavush. But think about this: when they’re changing over from a non-kosher flavor, do you think they clean the machine out? No way! So if you’re getting a flavor that you know is kosher and you see another color in your cup, stay away.
One other thing that’s fascinating about Slurpees: If you know how to combine water and sugar at the right temperatures, you get the right consistency. But the diet versions with sugar substitutes are a whole different consistency. They would come out either as hard as a rock or all watery. In the case of Diet Pepsi, the closest alternative to sugar for a Slurpee was tagatose, a byproduct of whey, which is a byproduct of cheese. Because it’s a davar hamaamid, it would make the Slurpee dairy.
This concept of davar hamaamid comes up all over, in all types of food. When you take a flavor, which is a very small amount, and add it to a soda bottle, and the rest of the bottle is water and carbon and sugar, it’s all fine from a kashrus standpoint. Flavoring as davar hamaamid changes the picture.
I once went into a very large soda factory that was making a popular cherry soda. For legal reasons, I can’t tell you which soda it was, but it was a well-known brand. On the label, it said water, carbon, sugar, and flavor. It can take 26 ingredients to make one flavor, among them many non-kosher elements. In this particular soda, there were 3 non-kosher ingredients in the flavor, sherry, civet, and castoreum. Sherry – wine, that’s stam yeinam, civet… Civet comes from a cat. Don’t ask me who saw that cat and decided to put it in his soda.
If you want to gross kids out, you can teach them about castoreum, which is from the scent glands of a South American beaver, used by a very popular brand. We couldn’t certify it, but everyone was buying that brand’s ginger ale, and might just grab the cherry off the shelf thinking it’s kosher. So consumer beware, the word flavor, sounds innocuous but can be loaded with issues. Flavors can be found in tea, soda, or almost any other food. So whether it’s natural flavors, or artificial flavors the products they’re in need a good hechsher. It could have all sorts of funny things going on, and it won’t be batul, based on the concept of davar hamaamid.
I’ve been to 7-Elevens, especially in predominantly Jewish areas where they’re smart enough to have a list of kosher flavors on the side of the machine. But how old is that list? Was it copied over? An agency should be the one posting the sign. If the store itself posted that sign, should you research which flavors are kosher?
That’s the best. When kids go in and don’t have access to smartphones and apps and websites, it’s a little harder. The adult taking them should see if it’s updated. And always read the kashrus letter. You’d be shocked. I checked out the letter in a restaurant certified by a very chashuve rav. He said everything is kosher except for the salads. The whole place was vegan. What was I going to have, a carrot?
Most guests from out of town are not reading kosher letters. They’re not looking at expiration dates on Slurpee letters. An educated kosher consumer is the best consumer. Take your kids and show them what the story is, so that as they get older, they’ll know that they can’t take anything for granted.
At the end of the day, that’s the goal of this Kashrus Awareness Project. It’s about helping people, educating them, and Rabbi Fishbane, we’re indebted to you because you’re helping us do this.
Put Slurpees on the ice, or chill and drink them?
- If your 7-Eleven is not certified, ask them if you can check the flavor boxes in the back.
- Always check the flavors against the CRC list because when it comes to Slurpees, you can have funny ingredients involved.
When they don’t let you in the back:
- You can usually rely on a national brand that you know is kosher (like Coca-Cola flavor), but:
- if you see any other colors mixed in, stay away.
Mirsas means that there is an apprehension on the part of a kosher producer, lest he be caught introducing unapproved ingredients.
Yotzei V’Nichnas (יוצא ונכנס/intermittent inspection) is a halachic principle recorded in Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 118:10, 129:1), which states that kosher integrity can be preserved even without a mashgiach’s constant presence. Intermittent appearances are enough, provided:
1) The mashgiach’s schedule is unpredictable; he does not divulge how long he will be away;
2) He can arrive unannounced without prior notice;
3) There is no lock barring his entrance; he can enter at will. Together, these criteria form a mirsas, an apprehension, on the part of a kosher producer lest he be caught introducing unapproved ingredients.