The word ‘kosher’ means fit or proper in Hebrew as it relates to dietary (kosher) laws. Kosher means that a given product is permitted and acceptable in terms of Kashrut (Jewish dietary law). Their ultimate purpose and rationale is simply to conform to the Divine Will as expressed in the Torah.
Kosher foods are divided into three categories: meat, dairy and pareve. The following descriptions offer practical information for how your product or establishment can be classified.
MEAT & MILK
Central to maintaining a kosher lifestyle is the separation of meat from milk. The prohibitions against mixing them are very strict, in some respects more so than other Kashrut regulations.
Food that is neither meat nor dairy is called ‘pareve’ – neutral – and pareve utensils like salad bowls or drinking glasses can accompany both milk and meat meals. Ordinary non-absorbent glass may be designated pareve. But
Pyrex and other oven proof dishes glass must be designated either meat or milk.
FISH & MEAT
Another rule is not to eat fish and meat together – but for a different reason to that of meat and milk. It is simply that the Rabbis, advocates of a healthy lifestyle, believed it physically harmful. So you shouldn’t use
Worcestershire Sauce, which is made from anchovies, in the preparation of a meat dish.
It’s perfectly okay to eat meat immediately after fish and vice versa, say a salmon canape after a cocktail sausage at a reception. But it is the custom to cleanse the palate first by having some bread or a drink. This may explain
the reason why many people drink a le’chaim – a toast in whisky, vodka or another strong liquor – after the gefilte fish at the Shabbat table before moving on to the next course.
The basic rules about which animals, birds and fish are kosher are set out in Leviticus, Chapter 11. As for red meat, the animals must have cloven hooves and chew the cud – such as goats, sheep, cattle and deer. Venison is no
longer available for kosher tables only because, according to agricultural regulations, deer must be shot in the open field, not brought into an abattoir.
The Torah lists only the birds which are forbidden to eat, such as ostriches, owls and vultures. We cannot be sure however of the true identity of the species listed. But by tradition, we can eat poultry such as duck, chicken,
goose and turkey, and also pigeon, pheasant and partridge. A Germanic tradition also allows sparrow!
Kosher meat and poultry must be prepared by the method of shechitah – a swift cut by a razor-sharp knife – which Jews believe to be the most painless means of slaughtering the animal. After shechitah, the animal must
undergo a thorough inspection (bedika) to check if there are any blemishes which according to Jewish law render it unkosher. The lungs of cattle and intestines of chickens are always checked.
NIKKUR – PORGING
Before the meat reaches the shop counter, there is one more process to undergo – nikkur, porging. This entails the removal of a number of veins and forbidden fats. Because porging is so tricky in the hindquarters of an
animal, it is not carried out in most Diaspora communities and this part of the animal is sold to the non-Jewish market. The hindquarters, incidentally, contain the sciatic nerve, which the Bible mentions as shunned by the
Children of Israel because it was where Jacob was wounded in his wrestling match with the angel.
MELICHA – SALTING
Finally, to be fit for kosher use, the meat must be drained of any remaining blood – the consumption of which is strictly forbidden by the Torah. That is why it must be soaked and salted before food preparation. Nowadays,
most meat is koshered before sale by the butcher, thus sparing the consumer the trouble.
Liver, however, usually does need to be koshered at home and, since it is full of blood, it has to be roasted by a naked flame. Maybe chopped liver became popular because it was the best way to serve liver after roasting.
Because of the strictures against blood, it is customary to check eggs that have been opened before cooking, so as to reject any with blood spots. There’s no requirement, however, to check them before hard-boiling. White
eggs on sale commonly have fewer blood spots than brown ones, though not for any biological reasons: it is simply that in the factory “candling” process, white eggs with bloodspots are easier to detect and thus they are
rejected before they reach the shops.
While there are a few available varieties of kosher meat or poultry, this is not true of fish. The sea’s almost the limit. Like television, the fishmonger’s counter was once in black and white. Now, through all kinds of exotic
imported species, it offers a rainbow of choice. Jews have always had a soft spot for fish – the Israelites even moaned about the absence in the wilderness of the fish they got in Egypt!
To comply with kosher requirements, a fish must have fins and easily detached scales. The scales of a sturgeon are extremely hard to remove – hence it is non-kosher, as is its precious roe, caviar. All shellfish, eels, shark,
monkfish and catfish fail the kosher test. Fresh or frozen fish should be bought with the skin on so you can check the scales.
Whereas eating pork involves a single transgression, eating a fly, worm or other kind of creepy-crawly involves several. The Torah is very explicit in its ban on insects, so fruit and vegetables liable to be infested with them have
to be thoroughly scrutinised and cleansed.
What looks like a nice green lettuce leaf, on closer inspection may resemble insect motel. Other tricky customers are parsley, asparagus, spring greens, broccoli and watercress. All bugs visible to the naked eye have to be
removed: one way is to soak the vegetables in water with a little salt or vinegar. Another method is to buy one of the several brands of vege-cleaner on the market, put some on a sponge and wipe it across the leaf. Insects
also, unfortunately, lurk in some canned fruits and vegetables: visible as little black specks, they can be sifted out, using a muslin sheet.
Since it is not possible to distinguish kosher milk (i.e. Milk from a kosher animal) from non-kosher milk, rabbinical law requires that milk be supervised from the point of milking until it is bottled in order to guarantee that it
comes from a kosher animal. In countries where the source of milk offered for sale is guaranteed by civil law (such as Australia), some authorities rule that all milk is guaranteed as kosher and need not be supervised.
Supervised “Kosher” milk (Chalav Yisroel) is widely available nowadays in the major centres of Jewish life.
When it comes to cheese, though, the rules are tighter. All cheese must be rabinically certified. This is because the curdling agent, the rennet, is often derived from an animal source – usually a calf’s stomach. The Rabbis in the
Talmud ruled that all cheese must come from a supervised source, even where the rennet was made from herbs. So vegetarian cheeses cannot be used, unless they have a rabbinic seal.
Wine and grape juice likewise must come only from a rabbinically approved source – but not for the same reason as cheese. The Sages put a ban on non-Jewish wine primarily as a safeguard against intermarriage, believing
that by drinking-out one might end up dating-out. Hence products like brandy and wine vinegar must also carry a rabbinic seal. As it happens, non-kosher ingredients occur in the manufacture of non-Jewish wines, such as bull’s blood for colouring or more commonly, isinglass, a “fining” agent, which comes from a sturgeon – another reason for avoiding
The Rabbis also discouraged the consumption of bread not manufactured by Jews, though in a place where Jewish-manufactured bread is not available, or is of inferior quality, commercially produced non-Jewish bread can be used, subject to the following rider:
Bread usually contains fat, which may be of animal (or unknown) origin. Here is also the possibility of an emulsion or glaze being applied to the crust, or of non-kosher fat being used to grease the baking-tins; such fat need
not appear on the list of ingredients. Further, the bread may be baked in the same ovens as non-kosher bread or cakes; this, too, would render it non-kosher.
In practice, no generally-available non-supervised bread is known to be kosher, though health-food shops may stock vegetarian bread.
Biscuits are usually made with non-kosher margarine. Those made with butter may still not be kosher, as tins may be greased with non-kosher fat and no indication of this will appear on the label. Cakes present the same
problems. In common with all other cooked products, cakes and biscuits whose own ingredients are perfectly acceptable may be cooked in tins or pans used for non-kosher products or in ovens together with non-kosher
products. For these reasons, each item must be considered individually.
They contain fats and emulsifiers which may be of animal origin; even the manufacturers of “vegetarian” margarine cannot always guarantee that the source of their emulsifier is vegetable. Only margarine under rabbinical
supervision can be used.
UNSUPERVISED MILK SUBSTITUTES AND COFFEE-WHITENERS
They cannot be used, as they contain caseinates.
In the 20th century, Kashrut has had to contend with a whole new challenge, processed foods. Thanks to the efforts of kosher food technologists, thousands of products on the shelves have been cleared for use by Jewish
Increasingly, more products carry a kosher label – like the KA, Kashrut Authority logo introduced a few years ago.
Each ingredient and food additive has to be individually checked to ensure it does not derive from a non-kosher source. Many seemingly innocent products, such as yoghurt, may contain gelatine, spices may contain stearic
acid salts, and even breakfast cereal may contain glycerine – all of animal origin.
Even where the ingredients are fine, the product may still be non-kosher because of other unlisted agents used in its manufacture – such as release agents used to grease the production line.
And even when a product is guaranteed vegetarian, it may still be non-kosher if the factory has prepared it on equipment which has been previously used for meat. Thus, with the ever-increasing sophistication of food
technology. The KA Food Guide has become an essential handbook for every kosher home.
NATURAL AND HEALTH FOODS
With the proliferation of natural and health food products in Australia, some clarification is in order with regards to their Kashrut status. It should be noted that many of these products are natural but nevertheless non-
kosher. Products containing pure vegetable oils could be problematic as many oil manufacturers produce animal tallow on the same equipment. Natural flavours could contain polysorbates, grape derivatives, beaver extracts,
etc., all of which are natural but require supervision or are non-kosher. Even if a product is sold in a natural or health food store, it requires supervision if it contains questionable ingredients.
For the traveller in Australia, kosher certified products are available in certain areas of the main cities of Sydney and Melbourne. However, it is much more difficult to obtain reliably kosher certified products in areas away from
the cities. A traveller who has frozen meals which must be reheated in a non-kosher oven must completely cover the frozen package with two layers of aluminium foil. If a microwave is to be used, the food must also be
When travelling by plane, train or ship, kosher meals should be ordered in advance. These meals are also heated in non-kosher ovens. The employees of the carrier are instructed to heat these meals in the same manner that
they were received; totally wrapped in double foil with the caterer’s seal and the Rabbinic certification seal intact. The traveller can ascertain by the intact seals that the dinners have not been tampered. Any dinner which is
not properly sealed should not be eaten. The kosher certification only applies to the food in the sealed package. Any other food (rolls, wines or liqueurs, cheeses, coffee creamers or snacks) served loose by the carrier are not
included in the kosher endorsement.
Since Sinofi was established in 2007, we have supplied many kosher certified food ingredients to clients all over the world. Sinofi has established strict control systems on our kosher ingredients manufacturing process. Our kosher ingredients can be 100% trusted in the product quality.