It is a biblical offense to eat “Sherotzim” (literally- creeping things) , and one who intentionally eats one could transgress up to 5 different prohibitions.
sherotzim are a broad category that includes insects, worms, rodents and other species with short or no legs. These are divided into three main categories:
i. sheretz ha’of (flying sherotzim), such as bees, flies, mosquitoes, hornets etc
ii. sheretz hamayim (water sherotzim), such as water-borne worms and insects, and water mammals such as dolphins and seals
iii. sheretz ha’aretz (land sherotzim), such as snakes, mice, all insects , etc
Not all sherotzim are actually forbidden by the Torah- insects and worms that grow in a fruit once it has been detached from the ground and have not yet left the fruit are in fact permitted, and this distinction has relevance to later discussion on the subject.
As many types of produce tend to be infested with forbidden insects and worms, it is therefore sometimes necessary to check such produce before eating it in order to avoid unintentionally consuming forbidden sherotzim.
There are 3 categories of such produce:
i. “Rov Muchzak betolaim”- If the majority of produce has been shown to be infested with halachically forbidden sherotzim , it is generally agreed that there is a biblical prohibition to eat the produce before one has checked it, and that if one is unable to check or clean the produce in a way that removes this majority of infestation, it is very hard to permit such produce. This will be the topic of a future post, Imyirtse Hashem.
ii. “Miut haMatzui”- If there is a significant minority of produce that is known to be infested with forbidden sherotzim, then although one a biblical level, one is permitted to follow the rule of “majority” and eat the produce without checking, there is a Rabbinic obligation to check the produce before eating if possible- where not possible, one may eat without checking. The definition of ” Miut haMatzui” will be the subject of a seperate post, but it is most commonly accepted to be 10% of portions eaten at one time.
iii. muchzak naki- if less than a “miut hamatzui” is known to be infested, there is no need to check the produce at all before eating it and if one happens to unknowingly swallow a sheretz in the course of eating permitted produce, this is considered “misaseik” [unintentional transgression] and one is not liable at all.
[based Y.D. 84]]
[ All Halacha blogs are summaries of my own learning and subject to further self-editing and user- correction- they are not psak halacha, unless specifically classified as such, and are for the purpose of study and discussion only]