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According to a recent article in Haaretz:

The trail-blazing Impossible Burger, the world’s only kosher cheeseburger, created sustainably, is now officially on the Orthodox Union’s kosher database registry.

impossible burger

My understanding has been that those who have been lenient with regard to the rabbinic prohibition of marit ayin (appearance of impropriety), did so on the assumption that potential onlookers were assumed to be sufficiently familiar with the kosher alternatives that there was insufficient basis for invoking the rabbinic prohibition. Considering that the Impossible Burger is is likely to be consumed by consumers in a manner that would create the impression that it is biblically-forbidden basar b'chalav (meat cooked with dairy), e.g. because it is still a relatively unheard of product, shouldn't this argument no longer hold water?

Furthermore, considering that marit ayin seems to be an issue even when one's in private (b'chadrei chadarim - see e.g. Shabbat 64b), shouldn't one need to make it self-evident to any potential onlooker (e.g. including those who don't read English, even if only the English-literate are around) that the product is plant-based? How would that be accomplished since the product is still relatively unknown (as opposed to, say almond milk or fish blood, both of which are and were potentially well-known, such that any potential onlooker might guess the ambiguous origin based on local clues of almonds or fish scales - see e.g. Ramo Y.D. 87:3, Chakhmath Adam 40:3, Arukh Hashulchan 16, all cited here?

(While apparently the OU had a controversial ruling [mentioned, but not explained, here] for a restaurant that served cheeseburgers with pareve "cheese" that they just needed to include language that indicated the cheese's pareve status, this would seem to be harder to control with regard to private consumers and would seem to be more of an issue with a novel, unknown product.)

  • "shouldn't this argument no longer hold water" Who said it does hold water? The OU certifies that it is Kosher Pareve. If you cook it in a pan and the next day cook and cheese omelette then you know everything is kosher still. What you eat it with is your business. The OU has certified a product here not a restaurant serving it with cheese AFAIK. I could enjoy eating it at home and followed within the hour by ice cream. (Unless you think there is Maras Ayin for not waiting X hours after eating meat??) Or I could potentially fry it in butter which won't be noticeable in the end product – Double AA May 22 '18 at 20:35
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    "because it is still a relatively unheard of product" he says, after quoting one (of many) articles in the media about it – wfb May 22 '18 at 20:43
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    How is this different from OU certification on Morningstar Farms vegetarian patties? Fake meat burgers have been around for decades. Everyone knows about them – Double AA May 22 '18 at 20:44
  • "Furthermore, considering that marit ayin seems to be an issue even when one's in private (b'chadrei chadarim)" -- see Responsa Minchat Asher 1:66 – wfb May 22 '18 at 20:48
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    @DoubleAA You may indeed be right that the OU certification is only regarding packages containing only meat - though that isn't the at least literal read of the article, which seems to be actually describing a "cheeseburger". (Though I think there's a fairly solid argument to be made that a kashrus organization should not be certifying products in a manner likely to increase forbidden consumption, even if only on a precursor to the forbidden food.) – Loewian May 22 '18 at 23:41
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R Shlomo Aviner was asked about a cheeseburger made with this product and answered that it is permissible for two reasons:

  • since everyone today has seen and knows veggie burgers, there is no problem of marit ayin
  • "we do not make new decrees" and our Sages did not make a decree against eating parve burgers with parve cheese

Hot from the press: the impossible burger was just certified kosher by the OU.

  • +1 Interesting. Were you by chance the one who asked him? – Loewian May 24 '18 at 2:51
  • @Loewian no it is a coincidence this came out right after you asked – mbloch May 24 '18 at 3:48
  • Odd that R. Aviner referenced the responsum in Yechaveh Daat and not the more lengthy and in depth one in YO I quoted in my answer. – Oliver May 24 '18 at 4:00
  • @Oliver he answers hundreds of questions by SMS every day (likely with a team to help) - I assume that he looks for productivity not exhaustiveness – mbloch May 24 '18 at 4:05
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    @mbloch ""we do not make new decrees" and our Sages did not make a decree against eating parve burgers with parve cheese" - Am I wrong to laugh at this (and have a lot of questions)? – SAH Nov 4 '18 at 18:16
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In a Hebrew journal titled HaMashbir, there is an essay (vol. 1 192ff.) on the issue of things (food, clothing etc.) which appear to be of prohibited nature but, in actuality, are permissible and its organic composition is common.

The author, R. Ovadia Hoffman, bases the permissibility of such things on a host of early authorities who bring support from a pronouncement of the Rosh concerning a mishna in Kelayim. The mishna in Kelayim (9:2) states:

הַשִּׁירָיִים וְהַכָּלָךְ אֵין בָּהֶם מִשּׁוּם כִּלְאַיִם, אֲבָל אֲסוּרִים מִפְּנֵי מַרְאִית הָעָיִן

Trans. (Sefaria):

Shirayim [type of silk which resembles linen] and kolach [a type of silk which resembles wool], are not subject to the laws of kilayim, but are [nevertheless] forbidden due to mar'it ha'ayin...

The Rosh (quoted by his son, the Tur on YD §298) ruled:

ואע"פ שמן התורה אין כלאים אלא בצמר ופשתים חכמים אסרו משי עם צמר לפי שדומה לפשתים וכן אסרו כלך עם פשתן והוא מין צמר שגדל בכרכי הים על האבנים שבים ודומה לצמר ואסרוה משום מראית העין שלא יאמרו על הלובשן שהוא לבוש כלאים וכתב א"א הרא"ש ז"ל ומפני זה אסרתי באשכנז שלא לתפור בגד קנבוס תחת בגד צמר לפי שאין בגד קנבוס מצוי באשכנז ויהיו סבורין שהוא בגד פשתן והאידנא מצויין בגדי משי בינינו והכל מכירין בו הילכך מותר לתפור בגדי משי תחת בגדי צמר וכן חוטי משי בסרבל של צמר ע"כ:

This is the basic thesis, IIUC, and the author goes on to demonstrate with many examples and proofs that when the composition and permissible alternates are known, even when not widespread, there is no issue of marit ayin.

A few of the opinions he marshals in substantiating his own opinion are: R. Shmuel Abuhav (Dvar Shmuel §92) who permitted the wearing of a garment woven from goat feathers and linen; R. Baruch Echfeld (Pe'at HaSadeh §36) who permitted chicken with margarine (?) which was, at the time, a relatively uncommon item; R. Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer vol. 6 YD §8) who permitted drinking synthetic milk after meat (though the author argues, after a discussion of ROY's resp., that the latter would permit the consumption even at the meal).

One of the popular examples he cites is the permissibility of wearing shoes on Yom Kippur that look like leather which a number of authorities permit.

  • +1 for the sources but this answer speaks more to once impossible burgers become widely known / eaten; I was more interested in the (current) interim prior to their normalization. – Loewian May 23 '18 at 4:22
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    @Loewian From the essay there it seems, to me, at least, that so far as the taboo item is known -which it certainly is somewhat- and people would instinctively assume "oh, must be tofu" or "hey, is that that new Impossible Burger?" we are not concerned that others may not be in the know. In other words, to quote the Rosh, it qualifies as "מצוי". – Oliver May 23 '18 at 4:29
  • "goat feathers"? – Loewian May 24 '18 at 2:41
  • @Loewian Maybe I mistranslated/interpreted; have a better suggestion? – Oliver May 24 '18 at 3:58
  • @Loewian my understanding is that goat feathers are always permitted. You have a problem with this? +1 for use of the ArtScrollian § – wfb May 24 '18 at 15:10
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I recently saw in kitzur shlchan aruch that if one cooks meat using almond milk one should place almonds on the dish as a sign. I would think based on this that at most one would simply need some sort of a visual sign to indicate that in fact the meat was parve.

  • My point in the question is that almond milk was already presumably sufficiently widespread that a typical person viewing the almonds adjacent would infer that the milk was from them. In the case of the impossible burger (at least for now) it would seem difficult to come up with an obvious visual aid that would suggest right away to onlookers what the source actually is. – Loewian May 23 '18 at 4:25
  • difficult does not mean impossible. with any new product comes the task of educating the consumer. I also don't think this is really such a new concept that no one could figure out that the items are parve as there have already been both meat replacements as well as cheese replacements for a long time now. Also I'm not even sure in the specific example I gave is necessarily the halacha and necessary to put almonds when using almond milk. Even if what the k.s.a. says must be done a simple solution would be the wrapper around the burger while holding it could say parve – Dude May 25 '18 at 1:10

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