02 Nov KASHRUS QUESTIONS WITH RABBI ELEFANT: IMPOSSIBLE PORK
“The Impossible Pork, we didn’t give an ‘OU’ to it, not because it wasn’t kosher per se,” said Rabbi Menachem Genack, the CEO of the Orthodox Union’s kosher division. “It may indeed be completely in terms of its ingredients: If it’s completely plant-derived, it’s kosher. Just in terms of sensitivities to the consumer … it didn’t get it.”
“It could have gone either way, frankly,” Genack said. He added, “This is something which we absolutely would be willing to review in the future.”
Why didn’t the OU give the hashgacha on the impossible pork when they gave the hashgacha on the impossible burger & bacon?
In terms of the impossible burger, there’s nothing necessarily not kosher about a plant based burger, so really there was no reason not to give athe hechsher. There’s technically no Maaris Ayin issues involved in the certification of these burgers. In terms of impossible pork, it’s not black and white. Meaning, I can’t point to somewhere in the Shulchan Aruch that says that you can’t certify an imitation of a non-kosher food. On the contrary, there is certainly precedent to say that you can certify something that looks or tastes non-kosher. One precedent is that the gemara talks about all types of food that are kosher, but have the taste of non-kosher food. The gemara says the reason Hakadosh Baruch Hu made those foods is not to deprive us of that taste. So we see that the Torah wants us to be able to enjoy every taste as long as it’s within the laws of kashrus.
Moreover, the Shulchan Aruch discusses a variety of a pareve milk made from almonds. It’s important to mention that when we speak about non-dairy creamers, that many of them are actually dairy so you have to be careful that the non-dairy creamer that you are using is actually parve, as you may want to drink a coffee with milk after your meat meal. Having said that, the Shulchan Aruch and the gemara discuss almond milk. The Shulchan Aruch says that if one wants to have almond milk on the table while eating meat, he should make sure to have almonds on the table so that everybody knows that it’s almond milk. Having said that, we don’t really make an issue about that nowadays because everybody knows there’s non-dairy milk available and if someone sees it on the meat table, they’re not going to assume that it’s milk. If they see margarine on the table, no one is going to assume it’s butter; people use margarine more than butter nowadays. Clearly the halacha goes back thousands of years and discusses that imitations are acceptable.
That’s why over the years, the OU has certified different foods that are limitations. The reasons, and I emphasize the reasons as of now, that we have not certified the impossible pork, is not just a maaris ayin issue, but it is also what pork represents in our diet. When you think of kosher, the first thing you think of as not being kosher, is pork. We therefore didn’t feel comfortable having the OU symbol next to the word pork or next to a picture of pork. Because of that sensitivity at this point we held back from certifying it. We may change our mind; we may work with the company to see how the sensitivity of the Jewish community could be addressed so we can certify it.
If the burger is pareve and the cheese is pareve, there’s nothing wrong. It’s not something we have to promote. In general, I was speaking about this to my shul, there’s no mitzvah to eat everything.
I find that people, more than ever before, are so involved in their eating and food has become such a big part of people’s lives.
Halachically, I can’t say that there’s anything wrong, but I’m not sure that’s how it’s meant to be; I’m not sure that’s what Hakadosh Baruch Hu wants, for you to be thinking about food all day long.