- Question: [Monday, 9th Sivan 5783]
It is very common when placing an order by a restaurant, or even by a supermarket, to have it delivered by a Gentile delivery driver and worker. This is becoming even more common today with the Uber eat app, in which the uber driver picks up your food from the restaurant and there are also kosher restaurants who are using the service. I’m just wondering what the Halachic allowance is for this if we know that kosher food must have signs and seals to prove that it was not tampered with. Quite often by ready-made food, restaurant deliveries, and pizza stores, I do not see that the food contains any sign or seal to prove that it was not tampered with, and hence how is it kosher to use these delivery services?
You are bringing up an important subject in which there is a divide between the initial required directive which should be followed, versus the case of Bedieved if the food was already delivered.
Initially, one should not send food through a delivery service unless either 1) the delivery worker is a Jew who keeps kosher or 2) the food contains the required number of Chosmos [sometimes one is required and sometimes two are required depending on the food]. An example of a valid form of delivery for restaurant orders is to place the food in a paper bag which is then folded hand stapled shut by its top, and then closed with a piece of tape that contains the Hashgacha symbol. There are companies which provide such tape for restaurants for this purpose of having two signs by a delivery, as we included in the link below. Accordingly, it is the job of every Hashgacha company to ensure that the restaurants which are under their supervision receive guidelines of how to package the food properly prior to it being delivered through a non-Jewish delivery service such as Uber eat and the like, or to simply require them to use a Frum delivery service for the products of the restaurant. Certainly, when a person is sending homemade food from one home to another, it should either only be done with a Frum driver or contain the above seals. Accordingly, also pizza stores who sent pizza for delivery should either use a Frum delivery service or place a Chosem by the box of pizza.
All the above is regarding the initial ruling and directive that restaurants should follow. However, after the fact if it was not followed there are many accumulated reasons for leniency to allow the food to be eaten even if was delivered by a Gentile delivery service such as uber eat, and practically one should discuss this matter with a Rav.
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 non-kosher 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. Likewise, according to some authorities if a Gentile stands a chance of losing his job if he tampers with the food then he is not to be a worry. Likewise, when delivering food through a public area which any tampering will be witnessed and seen, there is also room for leniency. Based on all the above we concluded that while initially one should certainly not rely on all of these sides of leniency which individually are debated within the Poskim as to their validity, and as to the circumstances that they apply to enhance initially the food delivered should always contain the proper signs and seals, nonetheless, Bedieved if the food was already delivered, there is room to be lenient after discussing the matter with a Rav.
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; See Pesakim Uteshuvos 118:6, 7, 11