- Question: [Monday, 7th Kisleiv, 5781]
I found a liquid vitamin supplement product called xxxxxxx that is made from non-Kosher gelatin under the Rabbinical supervision of an Orthodox rabbi in xxxxxx, named xxxxx. I wanted to know if this is reliable?
It should not be consumed by anyone who eats only Mehadrin Kashrus, and even amongst those who don’t, it should not be consumed without them first consulting their personal Rav, and or their chosen reliable Hashgacha organization [of which all the major known companies, such as the OU and OK, are stringent]. This answer applies not just to the above product but to any product that contains gelatin sourced from non-kosher products, even if it has a rabbinical certification [This answer applies specifically in this case that the product is a liquid which is drunk, and should not be applied towards swallowable medicinal pills that have a gelatin gel cap, which has other reasons for leniencies and is beyond the scope of the discussion of your question.]
The explanation: In the certification that the above-mentioned rabbi gives for this product he testifies that the gelatin is made from non-kosher cattle bone and hides. This is subject to the famous debate regarding the status of gelatin in the laws of Kashrus. While everybody agrees that it is forbidden to eat bones and skin of a non-kosher animal, or an animal not properly slaughtered, it is debated as to whether bones and skin still retain a food status after they have been processed and chemically purged. If we say that the chemical process revokes from them their food status, then indeed such “food” is technically kosher and is considered Pareve just as much as the earth from the ground, which is a kosher and Pareve nonfood product. However, if we were to say that despite the chemical purging and processing it still retains a food status, then it would be not kosher and be forbidden consumption. Practically, this matter is debated amongst the Poskim of the previous and current generation, with many authorities prohibiting it and so is the widespread custom of Orthodox Jewry and all the leading Kashrus organizations [including the Israeli Rabbinate; OU and OK] to be stringent and use only Kosher sourced gelatin within their products, such as gelatin made from kosher fish or kosher slaughtered cows. This was based on the final ruling of Rav Moshe Feinstein as well as other Gedolei Haposkim of Israel and America who ruled to the above-mentioned Hashgacha organizations that gelatin made from nonkosher animal products is forbidden in consumption. It seems from the above rabbi’s letter that he has a unique view on the status of gelatin which is not accepted by the major Kashrus agencies, and is likewise not the widespread custom of Jewry to follow, even though as stated above he certainly has upon whom to rely. Nonetheless, certainly those who are careful to keep a Mehadrin level of Kashrus should not consume the above product, and furthermore even one who only keeps basic Kashrus, should ask his Rav or a Kashrus agency which he trusts, as to their opinion on the matter. While the above-mentioned rabbi who gives the supervision may be within his realm to arbitrate for himself that it is okay to consume the above product, it is certainly not within his jurisdiction to give such a ruling amongst the wide segments of Orthodox jury who are stringent in the matter. Whatever the case, the above rabbi should be commended for being transparent and open as to the basis of his certification so that those who are stringent can know that they should avoid it. When the certification is given to a product without any explanation on what basis it is being given and if any leniency’s are being followed, it does not give the Kosher consumer the transparency to make his own choice and he must rely with blind faith on the certifying rabbi. If only that all Kashrus agencies would invest some of the money that they make off each product to give an online explanation as to how the supervision is done and on whether any leniency’s are being followed in halacha so the kosher consumer can have the necessary facts to make his own decision on what to rely upon, instead of it being a game of blind faith as it is unfortunately today. The consumer deserves the right to know and to choose.
Sources: See regarding this general question in Poskim: Rama 87:10; Beis Yosef 87 in name of Shibulei Haleket; Shach 87:33; Kneses Hagedola 87: 43; Beis Lechem Yehuda 87:24; Chochmas Adam 40:9; Mikdash Me’at 87:31; Aruch Hashulchan 87:43; Zivcheiy Tzedek 87:63 and 65; Kaf Hachaim 87:86 and 89-90; Dvar Moshe Y.D. 1:11; Beis David Y.D. 45; Perach Mateh Aaron 2:37; Shulchan Gavoa 87:34; Zechor Leavraham Y.D. Os Nun; P”M 87 S.D. 33, brought in Pischeiy Teshuvah 87:21; Tiferes Tzevi 14:73, brought in Pischeiy Teshuvah 87:20; Implication of Shach 114:21, brought in Pischeiy Teshuvah 87:21; Shvus Yaakov 2:70 regarding Musk, brought in Birkeiy Yosef 87 Shiyurei Bracha 1; Kaf Hachaim 87:87; See regarding specifically gelatin: permitted: Achiezer 3:33-5; forbidden: Igros Moshe Y.D. 2:23 and 27; Minchas Yitzchak 5:5; Shevet Halevi 7:135; Yabia Omer, Yoreh De’ah 8:11; Rabbi Yechezkel Abramski in the introduction to Tzitz Eliezer Vol. 4