Shop עברית

Terumot and ma'aserot from pomegranate seed oil

Terumot and ma'aserot from pomegranate seed oil

During the process of oil extraction from pomegranate seeds, the seeds are dehydrated and become inedible. Since the end-product is a food additive, do we still need to take terumot and ma'aserot from this oil? An abstract from Emunat Itecha, Nissan 5779, issue 123.

Rabbi Netanel Oyerbach | Emunat Itecha 123, Nissan 5779, April 2019

While rabbis of Torah VeHa'aretz Institute toured a plant that extracts oils from various seeds, the question arose regarding extracting oil from pomegranate seeds. The pomegranate seed oil is extracted after the surrounding flesh of the seed is juiced and only the seed remains. The seeds are then dehydrated and a cold pressing method is used to extract the oil. The oil is subsequently filtered several times until oil is produced to be used as a food additive or ingestion on its own.

The question that arose is: do terumot and ma'aserot need to be separated from the oil extracted from these seeds, or not at all?

This situation is unique inasmuch as the pomegranate seed is eaten together with its juicy pouch that surrounds it. However, after the seeds are dehydrated, they are not worthy for human consumption. As such, these seeds and anything produced from them no longer are subject to the obligation of separating terumot and ma'aserot. However, it is possible to view the entire process that the seed undergoes as a whole. While the seed is still part of the pomegranate, it is considered food, and even eaten on its own. After it is isolated and dehydrated, while technically it would not be subjected to terumot and ma'aserot, these seeds are meant for oil extraction. That is: the seed starts out as edible together with the fruit that surrounds it, and although during the oil-extraction process the seeds are no longer fit for consumption, the final product is edible. As such, the oil extracted from them would be subject to the separation of terumot and ma'aserot.

This case is somewhat similar to the discussion in the past about separating terumot and ma'aserot from orange peels. The peels in and of themselves are not worthy of human consumption unless they are cooked. Those who hold that the peels are subject to terumot and ma'aserot maintain that since the peel is part of the fruit, the process they undergo to render them fit for consumption is not considered a shortcoming.

The case of pomegranate oil extraction is similar to another halachic discussion in the past on separating terumot and ma'aserot from arak. Arak ("sweat," in Arabic) is an alcoholic beverage distilled from grapes or dates through a steaming process, where the steam is collected and used to prepare the spirit. Those who require taking terumot and ma'aserot recognize that arak is distilled from steam inedible in and of itself. However, since it is a byproduct of an edible fruit, it will also be subject to terumot and ma'aserot even though in the middle of the process it was not edible.

In practice: terumot and ma'aserot should be separated from pomegranate seed oil.

Fot the full article (Hebrew), see here.