Is Jell-O kosher?

The question as to whether Jell-O or other gelatin products are kosher often comes up in newsgroups. As the result of one such discussion I looked into the matter and wrote the following. I occasionally post it when it looks as though the question will be re-hashed.

If you are still concerned about this issue, you might try substituting a non-gelatin gelling agent in your recipe. Agar-agar is a vegatable alternative (made from seaweed) available from health food or Asian stores. Click here to see how agar can be used in a dessert recipe.

I called Kraft to inquire about the source of gelatin and if it's a kosher product. The Consumer representative answered my questions to the best of her ability, but in addition sent a fact sheet about it (Note: I never noticed before the dash in Jell-O brand). Here are some excerpts, from the horse's mouth.

  1. How is gelatin made?
    "The production of the gelatin starts w/refinement of collagen-bearing tissues of ANY ANIMAL that has raised and slaughtered for food purposes. ....These materials are carefully soaked in alkalies and/or acids and washed in clean water to remove almost all non-collagen constituents, including meat. During this soaking period the collagen is converted to gelatin. The treated materials are then cooked gently in pure water to extract the gelatin, which is further refined by filtration....(Contrary to common belief, gelatin is not manufactured from horns or hooves or meat of animals, for these do not contain the necessary collagen).

    "It is interesting to note that during manufacture of gelatin, chemical changes take place so that, in the final gelatin product, the composition and identity of the orignal material is completely eliminated. Because of this, gelatin is not considered a meat food product by the United States government..."

    The sheet also reminds us that gelatin is used to coat medicine pills as well.

  2. Is it Kosher and Pareve?
    "JELL-O Brand gelatin is certified as Kosher by a recognized orthodox Rabbi as per enclosed RESPONSUM. In addition to being Kosher, Jell-O is also Pareve, and can be eaten with either a meat meal or a dairy meal."

    They included a sheet with a copy of "The Halachic Basis of our Kashruth Certification of Atlantic Gelatin and the General Foods Products containing this Gelatin" by Rabbi Yehuda Gershuni & Rabbi David Telsner. The upshot is that since the collagen has been taken apart by the chemical digestion and a new substance has been produced it meets the specifications of the Orthodox Dietary Laws and is Kosher and Pareve.

Updated: January 5, 1998
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