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The development of the food industry and its implications for kashrut observers

The development of the food industry and its implications for kashrut observers

This abstract discusses the kashrut issues involved in the many types of food additives, specifically food coloring.

Rabbi Tzvi Ben Reuven | Emunat Itecha 120, Tammuz 5778

In the food industry manufacturing process today, manufacturers make extensive use of thousands of food additives such as flavoring and fragrance agents, food coloring, preservatives, and more. Today, standard manufactured food products are made up of many components, each of which can comprise dozens of ingredients, something that makes kashrut supervision that much more complex. One of the most significant and prevalent additives is food coloring. Food manufacturers use food coloring derived from kerosene, coal, various insects, and synthetic materials that we wouldn’t consider to be “food.” The kashrut problems come into play when food coloring agents use insect gut, animal-derived fatty acids, flamingo feathers, grapes (posing the issue of stam yeinam, wine of gentiles), among others.

The Minchat Yitzchak discusses using insect-derived red food coloring in cases of significant monetary loss, and permitted it due to the principle of sefek-sefeika (a double halachic uncertainty): employing (1) the rule of chazuta lav milta, that is, even though you see the color in the food, it is not substantial; and it is nullified in a ratio of 1:60 (unlike flavorings or stabilizers, which are not nullified even in a ratio of 1:1,000). (2) The food coloring may be older than a year, in which case the insect is considered to be dust.

In Europe this food coloring is considered kosher, but only under regular kashrut certification. Even so, kashrut supervisors should verify that at least 12 months pass since the time of manufacture.

The articles also discusses stabilizers, flavoring and fragrance additives, preservatives, and more. In practice, it is important to purchase only products that are supervised by a reliable, well-known kashrut organization.