According to Rabbi Binyomin Lisbon, gelatin is one of the most complex food products introduced for kosher certification. Rabbi Binyomin Lisbon attributes the confusion about kosher gelatin to the various definitions provided by American companies and certification agencies. Below, Rabbi Binyomin Lisbon helps to explain the different food sources of gelatin.
Q: Where is gelatin derived?
Rabbi Binyomin Lisbon: Gelatin is typically derived from collagen in the bones and skin of animals. It can also be produced from the skins of kosher cattle.
Q: Kosher gelatin is not vegetarian then.
Rabbi Binyomin Lisbon: For vegetarians, both kosher and non-kosher gelatin presents issues. In some cases, gelatin is considered vegetarian.
Q: How so?
Rabbi Binyomin Lisbon: Kosher gelatin can be produced using vegetarian sources such as agar-agar, Japanese isinglass, carrageenan and Irish moss.
Q: What kinds of animals are used in the production?
Rabbi Binyomin Lisbon: Manufacturers never produce kosher gelatin made from pigs or any other non-kosher animals.
Q: What about fish?
Rabbi Binyomin Lisbon: Certain kinds of shallow-water fish or shellfish are strictly forbidden. However, deep-water fish is permissible for the production of kosher gelatin.
Q: Have manufacturers maintained observance of kosher laws?
Rabbi Binyomin Lisbon: Most manufacturers who produce kosher gelatin have used substitutes.
Q: What are some of these substitutes?
Rabbi Binyomin Lisbon: Substitutes include seaweed-based products or fish-bone gelatin. Further, kosher milk chocolate has, at times, been produced using kosher beef gelatin.
Q: How is this possible given kosher laws?
Rabbi Binyomin Lisbon: Kosher laws prohibit the production or consumption of milk and meat together; however, the processing of gelatin and milk, according to some opinions, may be acceptable for consumption.
Q: What are the health benefits of kosher gelatin?
Rabbi Binyomin Lisbon: Kosher gelatin has several health benefits; it is fat-free, sugar-free and an excellent product for strong bones.
Q: Is kosher gelatin appealing to the general public?
Rabbi Binyomin Lisbon: It’s actually an essential ingredient in many delicious dishes.
Q: Tell us more.
Rabbi Binyomin Lisbon: For example, kosher gelatin is found in desserts such as no-bake cheesecakes, chocolate mousses, chiffons, parfaits and custard gels that are popular with kosher and non-kosher consumers.
Q: How is gelatin sold in the supermarket?
Rabbi Binyomin Lisbon: In the past, gelatin was only available in large packages. However, gelatin is now sold in consumer-sized servings for use in home baking and cooking.
Q: Has KSA experienced any issues with kosher certification for gelatin?
Rabbi Binyomin Lisbon: The problem in most cases is that different companies and agencies have not clearly defined what kosher gelatin truly means.
Q: How should the kosher consumer approach kosher gelatin?
Rabbi Binyomin Lisbon: The kosher consumer must examine an agency’s policies and what specific certifications mean. For example, each product submitted to KSA undergoes rigorous testing so that the consumer is assured of its quality.
Rabbi Binyomin Lisbon is the top administrator of Kosher Supervision of America (KSA), which currently ranks as the leading kosher certification agency in the Western United States.