Perhaps the most distinctive aspect of Jewish practice is the special diet. The food Jewish people are permitted to eat is known as Kosher (which means “fitting” or “correct”). The Kashrut Laws cover the type of animals a Jew can eat; how they are prepared; the prohibition of consuming blood and certain forbidden fats and sinews; the prohibition of consuming flies and insects, the mixing of meat and milk and many other aspects of diet and food preparation.
Types of animals:
It is commonly known that Jews do not eat pig. This is because according to the Bible (Leviticus Chapter 11) the only animals that are kosher are those that have cloven hooves and chew the cud such as cows, sheep, goats and deer. Pigs on the other hand, have split hooves but do not chew the cud; camels chew the cud but do not have partially split hooves. These therefore are not kosher animals.
Only certain fish which have fins and scales are permitted, such as cod, haddock and bream. All types of shellfish are prohibited.
Jews are not permitted to eat any birds of prey. In practice therefore they only eat chicken, turkey, duck and goose
Killing of animals and birds:
Jews may only eat animals and birds that have been slaughtered in a special way. This is called “Shechitah”. This method has been shown to be a very humane way of killing animals, as it is carried out by a highly trained person called a Shochet.
Prohibition of eating of blood:
The Torah commands Jews not to consume blood. If a blood-spot is found in an egg, the egg is not kosher. Once an animal or bird has been slaughtered, the meat has to undergo a special salting process which removes the blood.
Other prohibited substances:
Many food products today may contain ingredients derived from animals which are not kosher. The most common ingredients which can render a product not kosher are:
• Cochineal, Carmine, Carminic Acid
• Edible fat, Edible Oil, Fish Oil
• Edible Bone Phosphate
• Stearic Acid and Stearates
• Diacetin and Triacetin
• Wine Vinegar, Wine and Brandy
• Rennet in Cheeses
• Lard and shortening (in bread and biscuits)
• Insects in vegetables and fruit (these should be thoroughly washed and checked before eating
• Unsupervised Margarine
• Certain E numbers such as the following:
E120 E422 E430 E431 E432 E433
E434 E435 E436 E441 E442 E470
E470(a) E470(b) E471 £472(a) E472(b) E472(c)
E472(d) E472(e) E472(f) E473 E474 E475
E476 E477 E479(b) E481 E482 E483
E491 E492 E493 E494 E495 E542
E570 E572 E1441
Meat and Milk:
One of the most important part of the Jewish dietary laws is the prohibition of consuming meat and milk together. Separate sets of crockery, cutlery and utensils are used, and are also washed up in separate bowls and dried with different cloths. After eating meat, Jews wait several hours before eating dairy foods. It should also be borne in mind that Lactose is dairy, whereas lactic acid is synthetic.
Buying kosher food:
Today one can buy many Kosher products in normal supermarkets. They will have on them a kosher logo which is called a “Hechsher”. This is a label which certifies that the product has been approved or supervised by a rabbi or Kosher agency. There is a wide range of products bearing a hechsher. These include bread and meat, sweets, chocolates, soups, margarine, oil, biscuits, butter and cheese. The Really Jewish Food Guide (published by the London Beth Din) lists many thousands of supervised and approved products which are acceptable for the Kosher Diet.
Keeping Kosher in Hospital:
Jewish patients must be able to keep kosher when in hospital. The Hospital Kosher Meals Service provides pre-packed frozen kosher meals made under Rabbinical supervision. These meals should be available from your catering department. They come in disposable containers wrapped in double tin foil or similar wrappings that are microwave friendly. They can be heated in any oven provided the packs remain sealed, and should be given to the patient in the container together with the disposable cutlery, and should not be placed on ordinary crockery.
- All fresh fruit and vegetables are permitted.
- For breakfast, the Jewish patient can be given cereal, milk, fruit, vegetables, tea or coffee. Non-kosher bread (which contains lard, or has been baked in tins greased with lard) should be avoided. Certain crisp breads and crackers are acceptable for example Ryvita and Jacobs cream-crackers.
- If the patient has had a meat meal, he should not be offered tea or coffee with milk immediately afterwards, nor any sweet containing milk products (e.g. custard)
Non- kosher products and medical treatment:
An over-riding principle in Judaism is the saving of life. Therefore if the patient is dangerously ill and needs a particular non-kosher food for his treatment, this should be given. Of course it is preferable (when possible) to give a kosher alternative.
The following general guidelines apply to the Kosher status of medicines.
1) In general all prescribed medication in tablet or liquid form may be used without question.
2) Most capsules are made of gelatine .This is permitted for prescribed medication where there is no alternative. However supplements and non- urgent pain killers should be in vegetarian capsules or tablet form
3) Chewable and melt formulations may be problematic. Their status should be checked on the Kashrut Division of the London Beth Din (KLBD) listing before use.
4) Most liquid feed are Kosher but milky .Their status can be checked on the KLBD lists.
5) Injections, vaccines and external creams present no problems at all.
6) Passover present extra problems with medication and the KLBD listings can be consulted.
Keeping kosher in hospital during the festival of Passover
There are additional stipulations regarding food during the festival of Passover (Pesach) when it is not permitted to eat anything which has or may contain anything produced from leavened grain. Classic examples are bread, cakes, and biscuits. Other common products and ingredients are pasta, glucose and caramel which are often of wheat fermentation origin. Instead Jews eat Matzah, which is unleavened bread and other foods which have been specially produced for Passover. Fresh fruit and raw vegetables are of course permitted. The Hospital Kosher Meal Service provides special Passover meals, and care should be taken to ensure that only those which are sealed with special Kosher for Passover labels should be given to Jewish patients. This also means that while at other time of the year, Jewish patients will be happy with milk, cereal, certain crispbreads etcetera, at Passover many will require all their meals, including breakfast to be provided through the hospital kosher meal service.