Gelatin in Halacha: Recent Developments

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gelatinby David Roth

For many years, gelatin–which is typically derived from non-kosher sources–has posed a potential problem for kosher consumers and has been a major subject of debate among halachic authorities. However, recent developments in gelatin production might cause a problem even for those who have been historically lenient.

Gelatin is defined as 1. a nearly transparent, faintly yellow, odorless, and almost tasteless glutinous substance obtained by boiling in water the ligaments, bones, skin, etc., of animals, and forming the basis of jellies, glues, and the like. 2. any of various similar substances, [such] as vegetable gelatin.1 Vegetable gelatin has few if any kashrus concerns but gelatin derived from animals has generated vibrant discussion.

Although according to the above definition gelatin can be made from ligaments, bones, skin, etc., of animals, the discussions of halachic authorities appear to be exclusively regarding the bones. If the gelatin comes from a kosher animal that has been slaughtered properly, it is kosher and pareve2 according to everyone. Today, a major source of kosher gelatin is the bones of kosher fish.

Gelatin and Bones

The Gemara3 says that one who cooks bones with milk is exempt from punishment because the bones do not have the status of meat on a Biblical level, which is codified in Shulchan Aruch.4 The Gemara further states that if a non-kosher piece of boned meat falls into an otherwise kosher mixture, the bone counts as part of the kosher meat to nullify the non-kosher meat,5 or at the very least do not count towards the forbidden part.6

Although in general the bones are still rabbinically prohibited, in the case of gelatin there may be even more room for leniency because the bones are completely unfit for human consumption. They were never included in the prohibition of eating a non-kosher animal in the first place. This is similar to a case described by the Rama,7 who permits putting milk into an animal’s stomach which is completely dry like wood, since it is no longer considered meat. The Shach8 writes that the same applies to any innards of an animal, such as bones.9

Based on the above, R. Chaim Ozer Grodzinski10 permits the use of gelatin from a non-kosher animal. An additional consideration of his is that the processing of the gelatin makes the bones inedible for even the consumption by a dog. Therefore, the bones, even when reconstituted in the form of gelatin, are considered “changed” (nishtanu) in the process and unconnected to the original non-kosher product. He also noted that gelatin is almost always used in a way that it is nullified by sixty (i.e., it is less than one sixtieth) in the finished product.11 This is also the position of R. Ovadia Yosef12 and can be inferred from the responsa of R. David Tzvi Hoffman.13 R. Yechezkel Abramsky14 also proposed this approach but cautioned against leniency, out of fear that permitting something which had previously been assumed to be prohibited will lead to people being lax about the halachic process in general.15

Forbidden Bones

However, R. Aharon Kotler16 argues that the reason that bones are not included in the prohibition of eating non-kosher animals is simply because they are unfit for human consumption. However, if they are reconstituted into gelatin, they are fit to eat and the prohibition returns. This is because he holds that when the prohibited item itself is reconstituted, as opposed to just being mixed up with other things to make it possible to eat the bones, the bones themselves will become like the meat. If so, at the very least there is a problem of achshvei (showing that this item has importance), which renders the item rabbinically prohibited.17 This is also the position of R. Moshe Feinstein.18 R. Yitzchok Yaakov Weiss19 likewise writes that gelatin from bones of non-kosher animals has been determined to be forbidden by most Halachic authorities (al pi daas rov minyan u’binyan shel gedolei ha’torah). R. Yosef Eliyahu Henkin, while admitting that there is room to be lenient if the bones are completely dry, questions whether gelatin is actually made from completely dry bones. He then says that one should act stringently anyway since such gelatin is available, and we should try to support those making gelatin with more stringent standards.20

R. Tzvi Pesach Frank21 takes an interesting middle approach: he argues that the case of bones that are only rendered unfit from human consumption, but are still fit for a dog’s consumption, is a matter of debate. It is contingent on the halachic argument between the Noda b’Yehuda and the Shach about whether the above-mentioned Rama, who permits putting milk into an animal’s stomach that is completely dry like wood, also applies to the stomach of a non-kosher animal. Was the Rama only lenient about the prohibition of meat and milk or even about non-kosher animals? However, if the bones are rendered unfit even from the consumption by a dog, they should be permitted by all. He concludes that until we better determine the actual situation, one should be stringent, but one should not tell those who are lenient that they are acting incorrectly.

Recent Developments

It is also important to realize that the production process today may not be the same as that dealt with in the decades-old responsa mentioned above. The Kosharot organization in Israel22 has made the claim that today most gelatin is made from fresh bones, in which case the leniency of dried bones would no longer apply. Therefore, the gelatin made from these fresh bones of non-kosher animals should be forbidden according to all halachic authorities.

R. Yaakov Ariel23 responded that even if it is true that gelatin is made from fresh animal bones, the second leniency still applies. In the process of making gelatin, the bones are rendered inedible to a dog. He concludes that it is proper to be strict on that matter, but objects to calling it non-kosher.

The Kosharot organization responded,24 agreeing with R. Ariel that if the gelatin was indeed made inedible to a dog in the process that it would indeed be kosher according to some halachic authorities. However, they deny that this is what actually happens in the process of extracting gelatin.25 Accordingly, even the lenient authorities would have to rule strictly if the facts as reported by Kosharot are confirmed.

The OU and most mainstream kashrus organizations in America are stringent like R. Aharon Kotler and R. Moshe Feinstein; they only certify gelatin that is made from the bones of kosher fish, or from kosher animals which have been slaughtered properly.26 I have found conflicting sources regarding the policies of the Rabbanut in Israel.27

 (UPDATED)


  1. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/gelatin?s=t 

  2. Igros Moshe YD 1:37 and Igros Moshe YD 2:27, based on Noda B’Yehuda, Volume 1, YD 26, because something that is completely dry does not have enough taste to make a forbidden meat and milk mixture. See also Mishnas Rebbi Aharon YD 16:7-13, where he seems to give an additional reason. 

  3. Chullin 114a 

  4. YD 87:7. See also in Mishnas Rebbi Aharon YD 16,2, where he is unsure if the prohibition is really only Rabbinic, as we had suggested, or if it is indeed Biblical in nature, but one who does so is exempt from punishment for side reasons. 

  5. YD 99:1 

  6. First opinion in Rama there. 

  7. YD 87:10 

  8. There 33 

  9. The Shach has one caveat, however, which is that he says that one should not l’chatchila (initially, in the first place) make such a mixture; however, the Pischei Teshuva (there 19) quotes R. Akiva Eiger, that this is only when there will not be sixty times the prohibition in the mixture to nullify the stomach. If there will be sixty times the prohibition in the mixture to nullify the stomach, it should be permitted to rely on the leniency even l’chatchila

  10. Achiezer 3:33:5 

  11. He explains that there is no problem of ein mevatlin issur l’chatchila (nullifying a prohibited item in the first place) in this case based on a responsum of R. Akiva Eiger (207). R. Eiger says that if, absent bittul (nullification), there would not be a Biblical prohibition, there is no issue of ein mevatlin issur l’chatchila (nullifying a prohibited item in the first place). 

  12. Yabia Omer YD 8:11 

  13. Melamed l’hoil YD 2:24 

  14. The responsum is printed in the introduction to Volume 4 of Tzitz Eliezer. Note that R. Abramsky rejects the logic to permit gelatin based on nishtanu (that it is changed), and permits it only because the bones are dried up. He does not address the fact that there is sixty times the gelatin in the mixture, which could potentially nullify the gelatin. 

  15. Whenever a Halachic authority mentions something like this, one would need to determine whether the conditions under which he made such a statement would still apply, and whether if he were alive today if he would still say this. In any case, this is well beyond the scope of this article. 

  16. Mishnas Rebbi Aharon, YD 16-17 

  17. Achshvei is when one eats something which is not fit for human consumption; on a Biblical level, there is no prohibition whatsoever but rabbinically there is a prohibition to eat this item because you are showing that it does have importance to you. 

  18. Igros Moshe YD 2:27, in the last paragraph. R. Moshe Feinstein writes that gelatin from a non-kosher animal is forbidden because the Rambam ruled that bones are forbidden even though there is no punishment for eating them. Surprisingly, R. Feinstein seems to ignore the Rama and Shach mentioned above. However, it is possible (although by no means certain) that he really meant something along the lines of what R. Aharon Kotler said, that they are at least forbidden on the rabbinical level. In any case, it is clear that his position is that gelatin made from bones of non-kosher animals is forbidden. Also note that R. Moshe is lenient when it comes to gelatin made from processed animal skins, see Igros Moshe YD 2:23. 

  19. Minchas Yitzchak 5:5 

  20. Edus L’Yisrael, page 177 

  21. Har Tzvi YD 83 

  22. Emunas Itecha, Volume 97, page 41 

  23. Emunas Itecha, Volume 98, page 143 

  24. Emunas Itecha, Volume 99, page 152 

  25. On http://www.toraland.org.il/media/273100/emunatTahapuhotZman.pdf, page 16 of the pdf, footnote 73, it is suggested that the argument over whether it is unfit for consumption of a dog might really be a definitional argument. What does it mean for something to be unfit for consumption of a dog–is it that a dog would never eat it, even if it is hungry, or that a domesticated dog would not normally eat it? 

  26. See http://oukosher.org/blog/industrial-kosher/the-fascinating-story-of-kosher-gelatin-or-how-a-product-from-beef-can-be-used-in-dairy-delicacies/, see also http://www.star-k.org/kashrus/kk-issues-GettingIntoTheThickOfThingsGelatin.htm

  27. According to RJJ Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society, Volume 30, page 66, footnote 1, the Rabbanut follows the lenient position. However, according to an article on the Kosharot website (http://www.kosharot.co.il/show_hadracha.asp?id=60085), the Rabbanut follows the stringent position, which is contradicted by another article by Kosharot themselves (Emunas Itecha, Volume 99, 152) which claims that only mehadrin kosher supervision follows the stringent opinion. According to an article on the Tzohar website (http://www.tzohar.org.il/?content=%D7%94%D7%92%D7%9C%D7%98%D7%99%D7%9F-%D7%95%D7%9B%D7%A9%D7%A8%D7%95%D7%AA%D7%95), the Rabbanut is lenient for “regular” kashrut (as opposed to mehadrin, or higher standard supervision). Also, see the article on the B’chadrei Chareidim forum (http://www.bhol.co.il/forums/topic.asp?topic_id=2024554&forum_id=16810) about someone who sued the Strauss company and the Rabbanut for misleading them into thinking that certain products containing gelatin are kosher; different parts of the article appear to present contradictory positions which the Rabbanut allegedly holds on this matter. Also, see on the Tzomet website (http://zomet.org.il/?CategoryID=258&ArticleID=274&Page=1), where former Chief Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron says that while the Rabbanut does certify gelatin taken from the bones of non-kosher animals, they require it to be labeled as such. 

About David Roth

David Roth is a semicha student at RIETS and a summer intern at Torah Musings.

22 comments

  1. Rabbi Yitzchak Abadi permits.

  2. This is not a new issue. In footnote 27 you quote R. Jachter’s article (available here) where he writes “according to Kashrut experts, in this country there is no commercially available gelatin derived from hard bones.” Indeed, Zushe Blech writes (Kosher Food Production p. 318) “the argument is essentially academic because, even according to the more lenient approach, the bones would have to be completely clean, dry, and without marrow. Bones generally used for gelatin manufacture may have meat and marrow on them.”

    With that said, there is still room to be lenient. Rabbi David I. Sheinkopf wrote a book on the topic, Gelatin in Jewish Law. I haven’t read the book but on his website he writes “Soaked in hydrochloric acid and/or lime for extended periods of time, the raw material is reduced to pure collagen with no traces of adhering flesh, marrow, or grease whatsoever. (Those who contend otherwise are simply unfamiliar with the manufacturing process.) Hence, the gelatin extracted from the collagenous residue of bones and hides is kosher. ” (On that page he lists poskim he claims rule leniently, among them R’ Henkin, whom you claim ruled stringently).

    Besides the reasons for leniency you quote, a third reason discussed by the poskim is panim chaddashot (you mention nishtanu and say that it is dependent on nifsal, which is not necessarily the case; I’m not sure what you meant), and for those that argue in favor of this heter’s legitimacy is would seem to apply here as well. R’ Ovadya Yosef makes a very convincing case that even soft bones are permitted according to Shulchan Aruch, according to which the issue with gelatin never starts.

  3. This may be a moot discussion – I have not seen a product in Israel that is “Kasher L’ochlei gelatin” in years, and that includes marshmallows. It may still technically be permitted by the rabbanut but in practice I don’t think there are any products on the market anymore in Israel using that kind of gelatin.

  4. “Non-kosher” gelatin is widely sold in Israel. An example: The very popular jelly candies are made with gelatin. At one store in the Mahane Yehuda shuq, there are two labels: “London Beit Din” and the slightly more expensive “Manchester Beit Din.” (In my opinion, the better candies are the London ones.) They don’t tell you what that means, though, but R’ Rakeffet found out: The Manchester one uses kosher-sourced gelatin; the London does not.

    He personally only uses the kosher-sourced, but admits that it is a personal preference of his not to eat pig, and has no real basis in halakhah.

    I’ve recently noticed that the store has switched entirely to London. The fact is that most Israelis don’t care, for the same reasons most kashrut issues in Israel are what they are. Over half the population is not Ashkenazi, and have no issue with non-kosher gelatin. A large percentage of non-Dati Ashkenazim keep kosher to one extent or another, and in cases like this eat whatever has a hechsher. (The same is true of kitniyot, by the way.) And in this case, even most Dati Ashkenazim (probably not charedim, though) have no problem.

    • R. Rakeffet also mentioned rabbanut policy, and his understanding is the same as Tzohar’s: regular hekhsher would allow it, mehadrin won’t.

    • “They don’t tell you what that means, though, but R’ Rakeffet found out: The Manchester one uses kosher-sourced gelatin; the London does not.”
      Nonsense. the LBD absolutely do not approve gelatin from a non-kosher source.

      • I know what I see. Maybe they mean a different London beit din (i.e., not the LBD). Today it looked like Manchester has been replaced by something else.

        • You said the label had London Beit din. There’s only one London Beit (actually Beth)Din
          There are other kashrut agencies in London. Federation, they wouldn’t do such a thing, Sephardi Kashrut Authority,S KA, maybe, but I doubt it and Kedassia, which is right wing Charedi, and surprisingly, they might. I know that they do certify sausage casings from such a non-kosher source.
          Was it them?

  5. Does the London Beit Din in fact allow gelatin from non-kosher sources? Or is that just some strange way the machaneh Yehuda guys are labeling these things. I’ve looked extensively in the major supermarket chains and have not seen anything except items with fish gelatin. The places in machaneh Yehuda are for the most part not under any certification at all.

    • Do you mean candy places or stores in general? Almost every store in Mahane Yehuda (apart from the actual treif ones) has some sort of hechsher, and that includes most if not all of the candy places.

  6. And this is not just approve but certify. The LBD does neither

  7. Response from KLBD:
    KLBD does not Kosher certify or approve any products containing gelatine from a non-kosher certified source.
    Candy being sold in Eretz Yisroel under the KLBD Hechsher is made exclusively with kosher certified gelatine, either with Kosher certified Fish Gelatine or, when available, KLBD certified kosher bovine gelatine, produced – under full time Hashgocho – from Kosher Shechted animal hides (not bones). KLBD does not certify any candy produced from non-kosher certified gelatine.
    For further questions, please feel free to contact KLBD at [email protected] .

  8. [R’ Chaim Ozer] also noted that gelatin is almost always used in a way that it is nullified by sixty (i.e., it is less than one sixtieth) in the finished product.

    Is this an exception to אין מבטלין איסור לכתחילה?

    • The author addresses this in footnote 11.

      • Thanks, Ephrayim! (I generally disregard footnotes when I’m reading on mobile; the links are flukey.) I take it Rav Akiva Eiger’s view is not widely accepted? This must be the case, else the OK wouldn’t certify Omega-3 Tropicana orange juice as “Fish” (the issur of eating meat with fish is far from a d’Orayta, and the ratio of orange juice to fish-based Omega-3 must be far less than 1:60). (See OK’s explanation here: http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/general/7946/tropicana-orange-juice-with-omega-3.html)

        • I’m not sure what is accepted but I don’t think you can prove anything from OK’s decision to label some Tropicana OK F. Firstly, fish is different because the prohibition is a health concern which is taken more seriously than a issur (חמירא סכנתא מאיסורא). See שמרית הגוף והנפש who lists some opinions that state because of this health concern there is no bitul of fish and meat. Secondly, what the kashrut organizations label as dairy doesn’t mean that there is 1/60th of milk in them. Certainly dairy equipment items don’t have that much dairy and they are still labeled as such. The negligible amount of dairy in these products is halachically irrelevant in regards to eating them with meat, yet they are still labeled as dairy. I’d assume the same is true with the OJ.

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