Kosher Gelatin – When Is It Kosher and When Is It Forbidden?

Gelatin has been a little tricky for people trying to eat kosher.  The base of the issue is that gelatin is not always made the same way and from the same products.  The bulk of the gelatin on the market and used in food production is made from the bones of cattle.  Gelatin made in this way may not be kosher gelatin.  A product containing gelatin, such as marshmallows, is probably not kosher unless it has the kosher certification seal on it.  It is a capitol U with a circle around it.  Not all gelatins are a meat by-product; following are some acceptable methods of production.

Some gelatin can be made from a vegetarian source such as carob beans, agar-agar, xanthan gum or guar gum.  This is not only kosher gelatin but it is also considered pareve.  Pareve is a term that simply means the item is neutral, meaning without animal or dairy products.  If a product is pareve it can be consumed with other foods without worry.  Generally the term will appear near the kosher U, if it’s not there it’s considered non-neutral.  Vegetarian based gelatin is not the only source to remain kosher.   But it is the only option if you are looking for a pareve product.

If gelatin comes from a kosher cow it may still be kosher gelatin.  The same rules apply that do to all other kosher foods.  The slaughter must be done by a kosher butcher with utensils that are kosher and it must be performed in a very specific way.  Once the cow is butchered and checked to be free of disease the gelatin may be considered kosher.  Another form of non vegetarian gelatin that may be kosher is if it’s prepared from deep water fish.  The reality is that there is a lot of disagreement among rabbis about gelatin.

Some rabbis feel that the chance of contamination from gelatin produced from beef is too great to make gelatin from a meat source kosher.  The fact that microscopic bits of animal may come in contact with it, especially if the bones were not thoroughly cleaned first is a big source of debate.  Even if you think you are consuming kosher gelatin but it’s not, you are not kosher.  To be on the safe side it is probably best to use only gelatin certified kosher.  There is a wide variety of gelatins on the market that can be used at home.

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