Friday, June 16, 2006

Chewing Gum

Q: Dear Rabbi,

Since I am not eating the gum--what difference does it make if the gum is not certified Kosher?
The gum in question is Koolerz watermelon gum made by Hershey foods, but is not certified by anyone. There doesn't seem to be any non-kosher ingredients--but some one said even gum is non-kosher.
But I am not eating it--what's the facts.

A: Dear Yehuda,

Gum does need to be kosher, because it contains flavoring that we swallow while chewing it. However, provided that the ingredient label does not suggest the presence of any non-kosher substances, rabbinical supervision would not be necessary.

I am not familiar with the specific brand of gum in question. If I can be of any assistance in evaluating the ingredient list, please feel free to email it to me and I'll be glad to review it. The main ingredient to be on the lookout for is probably grape juice.

Best Regards,

Rabbi Maroof

Indian Foods

Q: Good Morning Rabbi,

I was curious: I am interested in bringing a particular processed food into my kitchen, which are not supervised under kashrut authorities. However, they are under supervision of Indian national food authorities, which do have accurate labeling for vegetarian food items (denoted by a green dot, whereas foods with animal products have a red dot) as a significant portion of their population has dietary restrictions from eating animal products (Brahmin/priestly caste). Given the existence of an established supervisory body forfood products, is it permissible to bring them into a kosher kitchen? Or, is it considered permissible by some to bring them in to a kosher Sephardic kitchen, such as one that follows such guidances like those of Rabbi Abadi (, an example, he permits the consumption of certain "gelatin" products as truly non-problematic)?



A: Dear Tzahi,

The answer to your question depends on the reliability of the food classification system in India. If a company would be fined or otherwise penalized for falsely labeling an item "vegetarian", then we may assume that the classifications they assign to their products are accurate. If, on the other hand, there are no consequences attached to such misrepresentation, then there is no basis upon which to trust the labeling process. We would have to be concerned about the possibility that business owners will make fraudulent claims about their foods simply in order to increase their profits.

Even if a product is reliably certified as vegetarian, one would still need to be sure that it contains no grape juice or wine. Grape juice and wine are not kosher unless they have been prepared under rabbinical supervision.

In our country, the halachic reliability of ingredient labels is based upon this very principle; namely, we assume that a company will provide accurate information to the consumer for the purpose of avoiding law suits, fines and liabilities of various kinds. If not for the careful monitoring of the food industry here, we would continue to harbor a healthy skepticism toward the representations made on product labels.

Best Regards,

Rabbi Maroof