Before continuing onto some more involved topics within the prohibition of doing business with non-kosher food, let's explore three interesting questions that have modern-day applications.
We've seen from the language of the Shulchan Aruch that the prohibition is applicable to anything that is "meyuchad l'maachal" (meant for food). Someone once asked R' Moshe if it was permissible for them to buy pet food for their pets. R' Moshe said that it was permissible. Why should that be? Pet food is food and it is obviously non-kosher!? R' Moshe's answer was that the gezeirah only applied to food that is used for human consumption. Since people don't eat this type of food, it receives the same status as animals that are used for work, such as donkeys and horses. We've seen previously that this was one of the four main leniencies within the prohibition.
All observant Jews are acutely aware of the issue of eating bugs, as well as the necessity to spend time cleaning and checking the produce we eat to ensure it is bug-free. But this is only a problem for the kosher consumer. Would it be permissible to sell unchecked produce to non-Jewish consumers?
The Acharonim argue on this topic. The Be'er Heitiv, who writes in the name of the Beis Hillel, says that lechatchilah it is forbidden to buy produce that has insects for the purpose of selling it. The Pri Chodosh disagrees with him. A third opinion, the Pri Megadim, maintains that is should not be permitted but says that the minhag is to be lenient.
What is the reasoning to be lenient? There are three main lines of thought:
(a) The Jew is involved in the business of buying and selling produce, and only produce. He is not selling the bugs, nor is he charging more for the produce that has bugs. The fact that the produce contains bugs is just incidental, in the same way that the produce might incidentally contain some dirt or pesticides. Therefore, you can ignore their existence.
(b) The Torah only forbade involvement in business with something that is actually forbidden to eat, such as basar b'chalav or non-kosher meat. Here, the produce itself is not forbidden to eat; it just happens to be that a Jew would not be able to eat it while the bugs are still on it. If he got rid of the bugs, then he would be able to eat it. So buying and selling produce is involvement with something that is permissible to eat and therefore doesn't fall under the prohibition of sechorah b'devarim assurim.
(c) One of the four main leniencies we've seen before is that of nizdamnu lo, which means that the Jew acquired the forbidden item unintentionally. If he acquired it unintentionally, then he is allowed to sell it. Here you can argue that when the Jew orders a new supply, his intention is to buy produce. Bugs happen to come along as well. So the leniency of nizdamnu lo allows the Jew to acquire the bugs and to sell them together with the produce.
In summary, there are a number of leniencies that allow one to sell unchecked produce to non-Jewish consumers.
The third application is as follows: We've already learned that a Jew cannot directly buy and sell non-kosher food items. But what if a Jew owns real estate, such as a mall, that he rents out to other businesses. Can he have tenants that sell non-kosher food on his premises, such as McDonalds or Dominos Pizza? Here the poskim say that it is permissible because his business is in real estate, not in forbidden foods.
Next week we will explore the question of whether or not it is permissible to buy non-kosher food to feed your non-Jewish workers.