What is Gelatin?
- Gelatin is primarily used as a gelling agent in foods and pharmaceuticals.
- As such, it is subject to all the Jewish kosher food laws.
- Since most gelatin is made from the collagen in the bones of cattle, the issue ofkashruth stretches farther afield into the realm of shechita (animal slaughter) and the kashruth of the animal itself.
- Gelatin, however, can also be made from: carob beans, vegetable gums, and other non-animal-based substances.
Gelatin – Is it kosher?
There is no consensus among Jewish arbiters on the kashruth of gelatin, however, most of the rabbinical religious authorities in America ruled that it was not kosher. While theRambam rules that since the hides and bones of non-kosher animals are inedible, they are rendered kosher (Hilchos Ma’acholos Asuros 4:18), he also states that the hides of domesticated pigs have the status of meat and are therefore deemed non-kosher. Thus, porcine gelatin (gelatin made from young pig hides) would be forbidden. But the issue remains even in gelatin made from other animals, as there is a worry that, although made from hides and bones, there might be remnants of meat in the gelatin, thus complicating the issue of kashruth. The main problem is that about 90% of American gelatin is porcine.
Fish gelatin is another form of gelatin, made from fish skins.
Once again comes up a kashruth discussion regarding the type of fish skins that are being used:
- Some stringent opinions hold that every single fish needs to be inspected by a supervising Rabbi in order to guarantee it’s kashruth.
- Others hold that such supervision is only needed in case a whole bite-full of non-kosher fish is eaten, (i.e. products that keep the fish whole, like canned tuna fish), but since gelatin only makes use of the skins which subsequently processed into a liquid, that requirement is not needed since any traces of non-kosher fish would be mixed in with a large majority of kosher fish.
Based on the second opinion, the problem of non-kosher gelatin was solved, but gave rise to another question in kashruth:
The Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) ( in Yoreh Deah 116:2) cites a ruling based on the Talmud that it is dangerous to eat meat and fish together. The accepted practice is to have different utensils for meat and fish and not serve them at the same time in a meal. With fish skins as the ingredient in kosher gelatin, this raises the question of whether or not one can eat fish gelatin products in a meat meal. This depends on a disagreement in the early Jewish arbiters as to whether the concept of nullification in a ratio of sixty (“Bittul beshishim”) applies to meat and fish as it does to other mixtures, or whether the laws are more stringent in situations of danger, and thus, relying on nullification wouldn’t suffice in the case of fish gelatin and meat.
Is kosher meat gelatin the perfect solution?
- The use of kosher meat gelatin would solve the aforementioned problems.
- The main problem, however, is that only about one half of all slaughtered animals are “glatt kosher” (meaning of a high level of kashruth and not bearing any of the blemishes that render an animal into not kosher/“Treifah”). That being the case, it would be very hard to procure the huge amount of glatt-kosher animal hides and bones for large-scale gelatin production.
- However, the leading Jewish arbiters in Israel ruled that it is permissible to use the hides of animals, even if they are not glatt-kosher, provided they are not treifahs (not kosher).
- It is also accepted that this form of gelatin is considered parve (not meat and not milk), and thus can be eaten with dairy meals.
Non-kosher gelatin – What happens if it was used?
If non-kosher gelatin was cooked with other foods, one might initially rationalise that the principle of nullification in a ratio of sixty (“Bittul beshishim”) would apply, and according to that the food can be eaten and the pots do not need to be koshered (a process that renders the pot from not kosher to kosher). However, the laws of nullification do not apply to a situation called “Davar hamaamid”, which means that if the non-kosher food, even though heavily outnumbered by the kosher food, causes a significant change to the kosher food, for example solidifying cheese and even thickening foods, it is not nullified and renders the food Rabbinically non-kosher and the vessels requiring koshering.
Are there any other concerns regarding Kosher Gelatin?
- Manufacturing Process:
- As with any kosher food, even though the ingredients may be kosher, the manufacturing process needs to be competently supervised by trained Jews to ensure that no non-kosher food affects the kashruth of the product they are supervising.
- Even gelatin made from completely kosher ingredients may still not be eaten unless certified by a competent Jewish law authority that the other areas of kashruth standards have been maintained.
- Production Vessels:
- This is a big issue in terms of the production vessels in factories that use both kosher and non-kosher gelatin. The question is whether the vessels need koshering (a process that renders the vessels from not kosher to kosher) after the non-kosher gelatin has been through them, before the kosher gelatin is manufactured.
- There are reasons to rule leniently in a case such as yogurt production since the amount of non-kosher gelatin would not be enough to prevent nullification from taking place, however, other factors must be considered.
Non-kosher gelatin – Where can it occur?
Kosher gelatin production costs a lot more than non-kosher gelatin, thus it is more likely than not that a product containing gelatin contains non-kosher gelatin.
Different Gelatin Usages:
- Gelatin is commonly used in vitamins covering small beads of oil which contain the vitamin, protecting them from outside elements, and to stop the contents leaking. Sometimes the gelatin may be nullified in a ratio of sixty, but sometimes it may not.
- Gelatin is also largely used for pill capsules to make it easier to swallow. The issue is whether or not the capsule is still considered a food since it has been hardened, thus free from all kashruth concerns, or whether it remains a food since it can be softened when wet, thus remaining an issue.
- Gelatin can also be used in foods to affect changes during the production process, for example fructose sweetening, and fruit drink manufacturing, making it extremely important that foods likely to use gelatin in their manufacturing process are certified by a kashruth authority.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q What is gelatin?
A Gelatin is an easily digestible protein processed from collagen – a protein found in skin, tendon, bone, membrane and connective tissue. Collagen is extracted from the bones and hides of select cows, horses, pigs and in some types of fish. There are no plant sources of collagen.
Q What are the differences between non-kosher and kosher gelatin?
A Non-kosher gelatin can come from cows, fish, horse and pigs. Only kosher cattle hides/skins are used in the manufacturing of Geliko kosher gelatins. There are no physical or functional differences between non-kosher and kosher gelatin.
Q Isn’t Gelatin made from horse hooves?
A No. Horse hooves are made of keratin, the same material as your hair and fingernails. Gelatin cannot be made from keratin.
Q How is gelatin used?
A Gelatin has traditionally been used in three major areas: food, pharmaceutical, and photographic industries.
Gelatin use in the food industry is probably best recognized in gelatin desserts and confectionery applications such as marshmallows and gummi candies. It is also used as a binding and/or glazing agent in meats and aspics.
In the pharmaceutical health industry, gelatin is used to make the shells of hard and soft capsules for medicines, dietary/health supplements, syrups, etc. It is highly digestible and serves as a natural protective coating for medications.
The unique chemical and physical properties of gelatin make it an important component in the photographic industry. Gelatin serves many useful purposes in the preparation of silver halide emulsions in the production of photographic film.
A new, major application for gelatin is in the paintball industry. The classic-style “war games” are played out using projectiles constructed of gelatin.
Q What are the additional uses of gelatin in the edible market?
A Surprisingly, gelatin is used in a variety of consumer products. Without identifying the application rationale, a short list of products in which gelatin is present include:
Dairy – ice cream, sour cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, cream pies
Meat – ham, aspics, meat loaves, pates
Desserts – jellied desserts, puddings, frostings
Confectionery – gum drops, lozenges, wafers, marshmallows, fruit snacks, gummi snacks
Other – consommé soups, sauces
Q Is gelatin a complete protein?
A No. While gelatin is a rich source of easily digestible proteins, it is missing the essential amino acid tryptophan.
Q Can kosher gelatin be used in dairy products?
A Yes. Geliko kosher gelatin is considered pareve according to Kosher Food Laws; foods that are neither milk nor meat.
Q What does gelatin look like?
A Gelatin is typically produced in a powdered or granulated form. Its color is slightly yellow to light and it’s tasteless and odorless. Gelatin may also be sold as a sheet for specialty applications.
Q Is the color of gelatin constant?
A Gelatin gels will vary slightly in color. As Bloom strength increases, so does clarity. For this reason, high-Bloom gelatins should be used when absolute clarity is required.
Q Is all granulated gelatin the same?
A No. Gelatins are distinguished by their gel strength, expressed as “Bloom.” Higher Bloom strength gelatins yield stronger gels with greater clarity.
Q What is the Bloom Test?
A Named after its inventor, the Bloom Test involves a device that measures the rigidity of a gelatin film. A sample of gelatin is prepared with standard proportions of water and gelatin. The sample is processed according to an exacting test protocol, and compressed using plunger moving a specified depth into the test gel. The force required to reach a predetermined depth is expressed as “Bloom strength” or simply “Bloom.” Higher Bloom indicates stronger gel and increased clarity.
Q What other physical tests are conducted on gelatin ingredients to ensure functionality and quality?
A Quality control testing includes pH, moisture, viscosity, ash content, and heavy metals. Microbiological testing includes Total Plate Count, Salmonella, Escherichia Coli, and Total Coliforms.
Q What is the shelf life of gelatin?
A If kept in its original container at the specified parameters, gelatin can last almost indefinitely.
Q What is gelatin hydrolysate?
A Sourced from the same raw materials as gelatin, it has the same regulatory status and nutritional value as gelatin, but delivers different functional benefits.
Q How does gelatin hydrolysate differ in application and functionality from gelatin?
A Most gelatin hydrolysates dissolve in room temperature or cooler water. Gelatin hydrolysate solutions never gel, they only thicken.
Q What are the differences between non-kosher and kosher gelatin hydrolysate?
A There are no physical or functional differences between non-kosher and kosher gelatin hydrolysate.
Q What is the source of Geliko gelatin hydrolysate?
A Only kosher cattle hides are used in the manufacture of Geliko gelatin hydrolysate.
Q What does gelatin hydrolysate look like?
A Gelatin hydrolysates are light-colored, dried powders. They are also available in agglomerated form.
Q Is all gelatin hydrolysate the same?
A No. Gelatin hydrolysates can vary by molecular weight and functionality.