Unsealed Kosher Food Delivery
Question: If one orders take-out food from a restaurant or a pizza
shop, and the delivery person is not Jewish (or a Jew who does not keep
kosher ), must the food be wrapped and sealed to insure, for kashrus
reasons, that it was not tampered with?
Discussion: The answer depends on the exact circumstances. The chief
concern when sending non-sealed food with a non-Jew is that there is a
remote chance that the non-Jew will take the kosher food for himself,
replace it with similar looking non-kosher food and deliver that food to the
unsuspecting recipient. Admittedly, this is improbable — but it is
definitely possible and, in fact, is on record. Thus Chazal required
food delivered by a non-Jew to be packaged with a tamper-proof seal.
But we are only concerned about this possibility when there would be a
motive — personal benefit or monetary gain — for the non-Jew to do so. If,
for instance, the order was expensive steak which the delivery person may
want but can’t afford, it is possible that he would be overcome by his
desire for the steak, eat it and replace it with a cheaper cut of
non-kosher meat. He has now “benefited and gained” by eating a
superior-tasting steak for the cheap price of an inferior cut of meat and no
one is the wiser. The halachah demands, therefore, that the restaurant seal
the order with a tamper-proof seal before handing it over to be delivered.
If the delivery person would have no benefit or gain from the kosher food,
however, there is no such requirement. We are not concerned that he or she
will purposefully and spitefully exchange kosher food for non-kosher food
just to cause the Jew to sin.
It follows, therefore, that if the take-out order is merely an ordinary
pizza pie or a bucket of french fries — “standard” items available anywhere
and everywhere — the delivery person would have no motive to switch the
kosher items with non-kosher ones and we are not concerned that he would
Question: What if the restaurant failed to properly seal an order of
food that was delivered by a non-Jew (or a Jew who does not keep kosher) —
may the food be eaten?
Discussion: It depends. If the recipient has no idea of how the food
should look, e.g., never before did he order this particular food and he
does not know what to expect, then the food may not be eaten, even
b’diavad. [Keep in mind, though, that this applies only when the order
included a type of food which the delivery person may want for himself and
will be able to replace with a cheaper, non-kosher item, as mentioned above.]
If, however, the recipient has ordered this particular food many times
before and can easily identify it as a product of that particular kosher
restaurant (tevius ayin), then the food is permitted to be eaten without
hesitation. Even l’chatchilah one may order food from a restaurant that does
not properly seal its food, provided that he can clearly and positively
recognize and identify that food as kosher.
Question: Is taping the package of food considered “tamper-proof,”
or must it be professionally sealed?
Discussion: Taping the package is sufficient if it is taped in such a
way that if tampered with, some of the packaging would tear along with the
tape. The package should be taped in at least two separate spots.
Alternatively, the restaurant can tape the package with tape that bears the
company logo, and stick it on the package in such a way that would make it
impossible to open the package without tearing the tape. Here, too, the
package should be sealed in two spots.
Question: Does food left in a public place, e.g., a hospital
refrigerator or a company dining room, also need to be wrapped with
tamper-proof seals so that one can be certain that it was not exchanged for
Discussion: No, it does not. The previously mentioned requirement to
seal food applies only to food which is placed under the auspices of a
non-Jew, either to deliver or for safekeeping. In such a case, we fear that
the non-Jew will help himself to the food and later figure out how to
replace what he ate. But when the food is off-limits and not supposed to be
touched by the non-Jew at all, we are not concerned that he will steal the
food and then decide later that he must return its equivalent.
It is permitted, therefore, to leave food in a closed or well-wrapped
package which is clearly marked as private property, in a public
refrigerator or pantry, even though it is not sealed in a manner which is
Question: If a non-Jewish cleaning woman (or man) was left alone in a
house (or a yeshiva, etc.) where an unsealed bottle of non-mevushal wine was
in the pantry or refrigerator, may the wine be drunk?
Discussion: When leaving a non-Jewish cleaning woman alone in a
house, all non-mevushal wine should be sealed. If the bottle is unsealed, it
should be put away under lock and key.
B’diavad, however, we do not prohibit drinking the wine from the unsealed
bottle unless we have reason to believe that the cleaning woman either drank
from the bottle directly, poured herself a drink from the bottle into a
glass, touched the wine itself (not merely the bottle), or picked up the
bottle, uncorked it and shook the wine. If we have no reason to believe that
any of the above occurred, we do not prohibit the wine.
If a sealed or unsealed bottle of wine was left in the refrigerator door,
and the non-Jewish cleaning woman opened the door of the refrigerator but
did not remove the bottle of wine from its place, the wine may be drunk.
All of the above halachos apply to non-mevushal grape juice as well.
Note: Contemporary poskim are divided as to whether or not the
mevushal wines and grape juices on the market today are exempt from the
halachos of stam yeinam or not; see The Weekly Halachah Discussion on
Parashas Ki Sisa for a complete review.
1. A Jew who does not eat kosher, even if he is a tinok shenishbah, is
still considered as a non-Jew concerning these halachos; see Shach, Y.D. 118:4.
2. See Chochmas Adam 70:1. See also Aruch ha-Shulchan, Y.D. 115:6.
3. Avodah Zarah 39a, quoted in Y.D. 118:1.
4. Y.D. 18:2 and 10 and Aruch ha-Shulchan 30.
5. Obviously, if he simply wanted some “standard” food, he would purchase
6. See Kaf ha-Chayim 118:114. See also Mishnah Berurah 515:68 and Sha’ar
7. Shulchan Aruch, Y.D. 118:7, rules that b’diavad, food delivered by a
non-Jew who passed through a “public domain” on the way to his delivery stop
may be eaten, since we assume that the delivery person will not dare switch
the kosher food for non-kosher for fear of being caught in the act by
passersby. Nowadays, however, when deliveries are usually made by car and
the delivery person can do what he wants in the privacy of his vehicle, this
ruling no longer applies; based on Beis Shlomo 187 and Mabit 208, quoted by
Chelkas Binyamin on Y.D. 118:7, Biurim, s.v. mutar.
8. See Taz, Y.D. 118:8 and Aruch ha-Shulchan 12 and 37. See also Avnei
Yashfei, vol. 2, pg. 123, quoting Harav Y.S. Elyashiv.
9. Y.D. 118:3 and Kaf ha-Chayim 37.
10. See Tuv Ta’am v’Da’as 3:2-17, quoted by Chelkas Binyamin 118:6.
11. According to Igros Moshe (Y.D. 1:46, 2:132, 4:58-3, O.C. 5:37-8), a Jew
who violates the Shabbos is considered like a non-Jew vis-à-vis these halachos.
12. Rama, Y.D. 129:1 and Shach 2 and 4.
13. Y.D. 125:9; Rama, Y.D. 128:4 and Shach 129:10.
14. Y.D. 124:24.
Weekly-Halacha, Text Copyright © 2010 by Rabbi Neustadt, Dr. Jeffrey Gross and Torah.org.
Rabbi Neustadt is Rav of Young Israel in Cleveland Heights. He may be reached at 216-321-4635.