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In Melbourne Shabbat begins Fri 10 Apr 2020 05:41 PM and ends Sat 11 Apr 2020 06:40 PM

Not all is Kosher with Vegan

ח' אדר א' ה' אלפים תשס"ח

The COSV reminds its Melbourne audience that there is a KosherFest being held here on Sunday February 24th from 11:am . View the Kosherfest Flyer . View the Kosherfest handout. Go to the Kosherfest website 



A common complaint we receive is the lack of kosher eateries in Melbourne. Some people don’t understand that we undertake the Kosher certification/ supervision but don’t actually operate any restaurants. Nonetheless, we get several calls a week asking if we home deliver Kosher food. The inevitable question is why can’t the Rabbis just authorise people to eat at vegetarian or vegan restaurants. They don’t serve any meat, so shouldn’t the food be kosher?

There a number of ‘challenges’ with vegetarian or even vegan eateries.

The first issue relates to what is defined as vegetarian or vegan. Vegetarians don’t eat the flesh of animals but may either eat eggs, milk, fish or poultry (depending on the flavour of the vegetarianism – Pollotarianism, Pescetarianism, Lacto, Ovo or Lacto-Ovo Vegetarianism). Vegans do not eat nor derive any benefit from the animal/ bird/ fish/ insect world.

A couple of years back I sat with a group of volunteers from a local Vegan/Vegetarian organisation and attempted to synergise Kosher certification with their dietary requirements. Unfortunately, gaining consensus on the requirements of these groups proved challenging. For example, is honey suitable? Vegetarians would say fine, but a vegan would demure since the honey was harvested without the permission of the bees.

What about l-cystene a commonly used ingredient in the baking industry to speed up yeast fermentation that causes dough to rise? There are three common sources of l-cystene – corn, chicken feathers and human hair. Strange as it may seem, none of the group had a problem with l-cystene extracted from human hair!

They also admitted that they took the word of companies who claimed to produce vegetarian or vegan products and performed minimal objective checking of the companies’ claims.

Therefore the first question to ask is which ingredients are really being used? Are they all really vegan or vegetarian and who decides?

The second challenge. Just because meat is not used does not mean that food is Kosher. There are a raft of Kosher laws that relate to grape juice/wine (which must be kosher produced with end-to-end supervision), balsamic vinegar (derived from wine with the same restrictions), cheese (the addition of rennet that causes the milk to curdle and form cheese must be performed by a Jew), vegetable oils (likely co-produced with tallow), ensuring that fruit and vegetables are not infested, and the concerns of bishul akum (food cooked by a non-Jew and is halachically prohibited). And these are the problems that are evident without even scratching the surface.

A third concern is the effect that this has on potentially Kosher cafés and restaurants. Say you take a coffee at a vegan establishment. This may be at the expense of patronising a Kosher equivalent which has limited opening hours due to Shabbat and Yom Tov observance. Imagine a hundred coffees a week missed out which could make or break the Kosher eatery.

And we haven’t even touched the problems of mar’it ayin – the sight of a religious Jew eating in a non-Kosher establishment. These are just some of the challenges with vegetarian or vegan establishments that prevents any reputable Kashrut authority giving them a blank ticket of Kosher approval.

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Great changes. Yasher Koach.

Posted by Leonard on 2008-02-20 10:24:58 GMT