What are Kosher Foods?

September 01, 2011

Are you thinking of buying kosher foods for health reasons? Well read on to find out exactly what kosher entails and if kosher foods are for you

What does that Kosher symbol mean on that box of cereal? Well, kosher or kashrut is a set of Jewish religious dietary laws, regarding what animals can be eaten, how those animals are slaughtered, and what foods can be combined. There is a growing perception, among consumers, that kosher is cleaner, and safer, and thus overall better. In fact, according to Fooducate, only 15 percent of shoppers who buy kosher foods, do so for religious reasons.

How are foods koshered? Contrary to popular misconception, rabbis or other religious officials do not "bless" food to make it kosher. There are blessings that observant Jews recite over food before eating it, but these blessings have nothing to do with making the food kosher. Food can be kosher without a rabbi or priest ever becoming involved with it, for example the vegetables in your garden are kosher (as long as they don't have any insects which are not kosher).

Kosher dietary laws are observed all year round. There is no such thing as "kosher-style" food. Kosher is not a style of cooking. Chinese food can be kosher if prepared in accordance with Jewish law. Traditional foods like kinishes, bagels, blintzes and, matzah ball soup can all be non-kosher if not prepared in accordance with kosher law. When a restaurant calls itself "kosher-style," it usually means that the restaurant serves these traditional Jewish foods, but that they are probably not kosher.

Although the details of kosher are extensive, the laws all derive from a few fairly simple, straightforward rules:

Certain animals may not be eaten at all including shellfish, pork and other non-ruminants. This restriction also includes the flesh, organs, eggs and milk of the forbidden animals. The only types of fish permitted are those that have both fins and scales.

Of the animals that may be eaten, the birds and mammals must be slaughtered by humane methods dictated by Jewish Law and carried out by specially trained ritual slaughterers. Certain parts of permitted animals may not be eaten.

Fruits and vegetables are permitted, but must be inspected for bugs (which cannot be eaten). Grape products made by non-Jews may not be eaten.

Meat cannot be eaten with dairy. Fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables and grains can be eaten with either meat or dairy. (According to some, fish may not be eaten with meat).

Utensils (including pots and pans and other cooking surfaces) that have come into contact with meat may not be used with dairy, and vice versa. Utensils that have come into contact with non-kosher food may not be used with kosher food. This applies only where the contact occurred while the food was hot.

Kosher laws are much more extensive than described above, for more, visit Star-K online.