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Published on: May 28, 2010 09:14 AM
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Consuming Gelatin and Gel-caps

When one walks down the aisles in a pharmacy he may see many pills which contain a gelatin coating. This issue involves the discussion of gelatin. Below we will discuss what gelatin is and what its kosher status is, and how it applies to ingesting gel-caps.

What is Gelatin?

Gelatin is a protein which is derived from a naturally occurring protein known as collagen. Collagen is the component of animal connective tissue, bones, sinews and skin. Gelatin does not have any taste to it. Gelatin is widely used in the pharmaceutical industry to coat capsules as well as hold tablets together. In addition, gelatin is used in marshmallows, yogurt, ice cream, jello, to remove cloudiness or haze in apple juice, in gummy bears, throat lozenges, frostings, protein supplements, and sugar glazes.

How is it Manufactured?

The source of gelatin is almost always the bones or hides of non-kosher animals. To improve the quality of the process, the raw material is pretreated by soaking the hard bones in a mixture of lime and water between 70-120 days.  Soft bone and hides are treated with a five percent concentration of mineral acids for ten to thirty hours. Gelatin is then extracted from the pretreated material in a process which is like cooking. The bones are warmed in a series of runs at increasing temperatures. Eventually gelatin liquor is formed, which is then filtered and evaporated to remove the water and concentrate the liquor. The liquor is then cooled to form a gel. The gel is dried and cut into desired shapes.

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The poskim discuss many reasons why consuming gelatin may be permitted. Each one will be dealt with below.

Bones from non-Kosher animals

The Toras Kohanim says the posuk “from non-pure animals one should not eat their flesh” excludes bones, sinews, and hooves. There is a discussion if there is no issur at all, or if there is an issur d’rabanan to consume the above items. The Rambam is of the opinion that “one who eats from a non-kosher animal, it’s skin, bones, sinews, horns, hooves, or nails, even though they are forbidden, is excused from punishment.” It seems from the opinion of the Rambam that bones are forbidden d’rabanan, while others maintain that he does not seem to imply even an issur d’rabanan. The opinion of Tosfas who talks about permitting bee legs implies that bones are indeed permitted.

The opinion of some poskim is that the Rambam when implying that an issur d’rabbanan exists for bones was referring to soft bones which have some moisture to it, but hard and dry bones are permitted even according to the Rambam.

The Gelatin has changed

The Mishnah Berurah and others say regarding “musk,” which is a byproduct of blood that is found in the neck of a deer, we can consider it “changed,” since the blood is turned into a new entity. Many poskim follow this opinion.

Using the same line of reasoning, some poskim permit the use of gelatin since it is totally

changed from it original state. Others are not convinced that one can draw a parallel between musk and gelatin.

Dried out Stomach / Gelatin

The Rama says an animal’s stomach lining which was salted and dried out so that it becomes like a piece of wood may be filled with milk since it does not retain any taste of meat. The same would apply to gelatin which is completely dried out.

A question which arises is, if a non-kosher food becomes like wood but is later edible does it change the status or does it retains its previous non-kosher status?

Some say that once the product was dried it may not regain its non-kosher status.  Ohers are stringent in this regard.

Contemporary Opinions

The opinion of the Achiezer and others is to permit the consumption of gelatin. The opinion of Harav Henkin zt”l is that since this matter is not decided one should be stringent. This is the opinion of Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l and others as well. The opinion of the Israeli Rabbinate is to permit the consumption of gelatin, while the Mehadrin kosher certification in Eretz Yisroel do not allow gelatin. The major kashrus organizations in the United States do not allow non-certified gelatin. (The above discussion does not apply to taking gel-caps, as this will be discussed below).

Status of Kosher Gelatin

Gelatin made from a kosher source is considered pareve. Kosher gelatin is gelatin made from fish or glatt kosher beef hides.

Gel Caps - Not in the Normal Manner

One who is sick is permitted to eat a non-kosher food (which is normally ossur b’achilah) in an unusual manner. Based on this, the opinion of some poskim is that swallowing a pill made from a gelatin coating is permitted, since it is for a sick person and it is not the

usual manner of eating. However, there are poskim who maintain that swallowing a pill is the regular manner of consumption. Others are lenient and maintain that swallowing a pill is considered an unusual manner. In addition, even those who are stringent by gelatin, it would not apply to medicines. However, according to the stringent opinion above regarding gelatin, one who only has a headache or slight discomfort should take a pill which has no gelatin or wrap the gel-cap in a tissue (in the next issue we will iy”h continue our discussion on gel-caps).

The above article is reprinted with permission exclusive to VIN News from Halachically Speaking, a monthly publication compiled by Rabbi Moishe Dovid Lebovits, a former chaver kollel of Yeshiva Torah Vodaath and a musmach of Harav Yisroel Belsky Shlita. Rabbi Lebovits currently works as the Rabbinical Administrator for the KOF-K Kosher Supervision. To subscribe to Halachically Speaking via email for free sign up at www.thehalacha.com  


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Read Comments (20)  —  Post Yours »

1

 May 28, 2010 at 09:25 AM HaNavon Says:

First of all, most major poskim in Europe and Israel, including R' Chaim Ozer held that gelatin was muttar until R' Moshe Feinstein and R' Yosef Ber Soloveichik held that is was not muttar and then people in America started to be noheig issur on it until it became so assur in the minds of religious Jews that we even shudder at the thought of having to take a gel-cap tylenol!

2

 May 28, 2010 at 09:36 AM Chaim S. Says:

A caveat here on this discussion. Everything that Rabbi Lebovits said is quite true. Most poskim hold that the gelatin used in toothpaste and medicines, whether organic or synthetic, is permissable. However, the gelatin used in food product manufacture is a better quality gelatin that actually is considered treif. So don't go running off to Shop Rite to but Hostess Twinkies. They're still treif.

3

 May 28, 2010 at 10:03 AM Chaim S. Says:

Reply to #1  
HaNavon Says:

First of all, most major poskim in Europe and Israel, including R' Chaim Ozer held that gelatin was muttar until R' Moshe Feinstein and R' Yosef Ber Soloveichik held that is was not muttar and then people in America started to be noheig issur on it until it became so assur in the minds of religious Jews that we even shudder at the thought of having to take a gel-cap tylenol!

The major poskim in pre-war Europe, who the Israeli poskim followed, held that he gelatin made in Europe was muttar because they used the process currently used in the US and in China et al. Immediately post-war America, addressed by Rav Moshe and Rav YB ztzl manufactured gelatin is a way that remained treif and therefore they both paskined treif. Since then the American process became a muttar process such as was used in Europe because the muttar gelatin is actually cheaper than the treif gelatin.

4

 May 28, 2010 at 10:22 AM The Rat Says:

Reply to #2  
Chaim S. Says:

A caveat here on this discussion. Everything that Rabbi Lebovits said is quite true. Most poskim hold that the gelatin used in toothpaste and medicines, whether organic or synthetic, is permissable. However, the gelatin used in food product manufacture is a better quality gelatin that actually is considered treif. So don't go running off to Shop Rite to but Hostess Twinkies. They're still treif.

Twinkies don't contain gelatin - though they may contain beef fat, and are therefore treif.

5

 May 28, 2010 at 11:21 AM Anonymous Says:

As the wise people from the old country used to say, a Yid eates a chazar in his lifetime without even knowing it.

6

 May 28, 2010 at 11:22 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #3  
Chaim S. Says:

The major poskim in pre-war Europe, who the Israeli poskim followed, held that he gelatin made in Europe was muttar because they used the process currently used in the US and in China et al. Immediately post-war America, addressed by Rav Moshe and Rav YB ztzl manufactured gelatin is a way that remained treif and therefore they both paskined treif. Since then the American process became a muttar process such as was used in Europe because the muttar gelatin is actually cheaper than the treif gelatin.

Very unclear what you are saying.

7

 May 28, 2010 at 11:34 AM murray Says:

Reply to #4  
The Rat Says:

Twinkies don't contain gelatin - though they may contain beef fat, and are therefore treif.

They Should be considered Forbidden- as a Danger to one's health, as are cigarettes. That stuff will kill you! (fats,chemicals,trans fats, empty calories, HFCS, etc.) Twinkies have so many preservatives that an uncovered Twinkie will not decompose for 50 years (unless the roaches get to it.

8

 May 28, 2010 at 11:57 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #4  
The Rat Says:

Twinkies don't contain gelatin - though they may contain beef fat, and are therefore treif.

Is RAT muter? (What name is RAT?, Bahemeh I heard.

9

 May 28, 2010 at 12:35 PM Anonymous Says:

Are you actually supposed to swallow a tissue? Also, can you use cough syrup that has gelatin?

10

 May 28, 2010 at 12:46 PM Anonymous Says:

And what do you after you "wrap the gel-cap in a tissue" – look at it?

Or they want you to eat the paper, so that the whole gel-cap becomes like a piece of wood again?

11

 May 28, 2010 at 01:56 PM Milhouse Says:

Reply to #10  
Anonymous Says:

And what do you after you "wrap the gel-cap in a tissue" – look at it?

Or they want you to eat the paper, so that the whole gel-cap becomes like a piece of wood again?

You swallow it wrapped in the tissue (or a lettuce leaf) so that you won't have any sensual benefit from the capsule's taste or texture as it goes down.

12

 May 28, 2010 at 02:12 PM Anonymous Says:

how about taking vitamins that are gel caps?

13

 May 28, 2010 at 02:52 PM MazelKGH Says:

Reply to #11  
Milhouse Says:

You swallow it wrapped in the tissue (or a lettuce leaf) so that you won't have any sensual benefit from the capsule's taste or texture as it goes down.

Tell me professor, is there a medication for your sickness, gel-cap or otherwise?

14

 May 28, 2010 at 03:18 PM murray Says:

Reply to #11  
Milhouse Says:

You swallow it wrapped in the tissue (or a lettuce leaf) so that you won't have any sensual benefit from the capsule's taste or texture as it goes down.

This sounds like you are needlessly putting yourself in danger from a choking hazard. What is wrong with dumping the contents of the capsule out into say a glass of water or grapefruit juice , and consuming in that fashion?

15

 May 28, 2010 at 05:00 PM Milhouse Says:

Reply to #14  
murray Says:

This sounds like you are needlessly putting yourself in danger from a choking hazard. What is wrong with dumping the contents of the capsule out into say a glass of water or grapefruit juice , and consuming in that fashion?

Ask any doctor or pharmacist what's wrong with it! it's a lot more dangerous than swallowing a bit of tissue or lettuce.

16

 May 28, 2010 at 05:48 PM AH Says:

Reply to #13  
MazelKGH Says:

Tell me professor, is there a medication for your sickness, gel-cap or otherwise?

Tell me, since the idea of wrapping it in a tissue is not Milhouse's own idea but is mentioned in the article above, why you feel the need to attack him for it? Tell me why you feel the need to trash-talk, rather than contributing constructively to the discussion?

17

 May 28, 2010 at 06:36 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #12  
Anonymous Says:

how about taking vitamins that are gel caps?

Dont think vitamins are allowed since its you dont take them if you sick as you would a antibotic. Wish they were. non kosher vitamins are much cheaper!

18

 May 29, 2010 at 11:00 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #16  
AH Says:

Tell me, since the idea of wrapping it in a tissue is not Milhouse's own idea but is mentioned in the article above, why you feel the need to attack him for it? Tell me why you feel the need to trash-talk, rather than contributing constructively to the discussion?

Obviously he is not very fond of Mr . Milhouse .

19

 May 29, 2010 at 11:11 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #16  
AH Says:

Tell me, since the idea of wrapping it in a tissue is not Milhouse's own idea but is mentioned in the article above, why you feel the need to attack him for it? Tell me why you feel the need to trash-talk, rather than contributing constructively to the discussion?

Perhaps , kinaas sofrim .

20

 May 30, 2010 at 12:09 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #17  
Anonymous Says:

Dont think vitamins are allowed since its you dont take them if you sick as you would a antibotic. Wish they were. non kosher vitamins are much cheaper!

my orthodox rabbi permits taking vitamins without hashgacha, and yes, CVS brand vitamins are MUCH cheaper!

21

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