From the Rav’s Desk: Leaving food in a public fridge

  1. Question: [Monday 6th MarCheshvan 5782]

In my work we have a shared fridge for all the employees. Am I allowed to leave my food there or is there any issue with leaving it there being that Gentiles have access to it?



You may leave it in the fridge so long as you have yet to open the package of your food, such as a closed can of tuna, or an unopened package of fish, or an unopened package of meat and the like. If, however, you have opened the package, then the food is to contain two Chosmos, signs, when it is left in the fridge. This can be accomplished by placing the food in a bag and sealing the bag shut using a sticker onto which you will write your name, or the word kosher, and the like. Accordingly, the best thing to do whenever one is making use of a public fridge such as in offices, campsites, hostels, hospitals, and the like, is to keep all one’s food in a bag or cooler which is sealed shut using a sticker which says your name. Bedieved, if one did not do the above and left an open package of food in the fridge, then so long as one does not notice that any tampering was done with the food, then by the public fridge of a hospital or hostel or campsite one may be lenient to eat it, so long as the other people there are not aware of his schedule, and he can possibly return to the fridge at any moment. However, by an office and the like, in which other employees are aware when he has left for the day, then it is possible that even Bedeived he may not eat the food, and this matter is dependent on the type of food and if it has a biblical or rabbinical worry of being non-kosher, and if one can recognize positively that it was not tampered with.

Explanation: It is a well-known law in the laws of Kashrus that it is rabbinically forbidden to leave foods that have a worry of not being kosher, unsupervised and with access available to Gentiles. The reason for this is because we worry that the Gentile may switch the kosher food for a nonkosher similar product. The way to circumvent this issue if one must leave the food in the hands of a Gentile without supervising it, is through placing signs on the food which will prove that it was not tampered with. There are many details which govern this law, such as a food that can potentially be biblically forbidden, such as meat and chicken, according to some opinions requires two signs, versus a food that is only potentially rabbinically forbidden, such as milk and bread, which only requires one sign. Likewise, the signs are only required if the Gentiles who have access to your food do not fear you coming back at any moment and catching them in the act. Likewise, it only applies if there’s a real incentive for them to switch the food. Now, regarding the definition of a sign, it must be something that one can recognize if it was tampered with, and that it must be tampered with in order to get the food. Thus, for example placing the food into two bags is not even considered like a single sign being that it doesn’t do anything to prevent the person from switching the food. Likewise, placing a sticker with your name on the side of the bag does not accomplish anything as the Gentile can potentially just open the bag and switch the food. However, if one places a sticker by the actual area where one opens the bag, then since one will be able to tell if any tampering took place if the sticker were to be removed and replaced, then it serves as at least one sign. Furthermore, writing words on it can then serve as a second sign, and in truth if one writes two letters, then it intrinsically serves as its own two signs, and suffices even if the sticker were not to be there.

Sources: See Michaber and Rama Y.D. 118:1 versus when two signs are required versus one sign and the various opinions relevant; Rama 118:2 that we only suspect if there is benefit for the gentile to switch; Michaber 118:3 that each written letter is considered one Chosem; Rama 118:4 that signing on the outside of the sack is worthless; Michaber 118:8 that by Derech Harabim we do not worry; Michaber 118:10 regarding Yotzei Venichnas


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