more about marshmallows / gelatin
ive heard so many different answers to this - is kosher gelatin still made from animal products? and if so, how is it parve?
Several companies have recently developed Kosher gelatins that meet the rigorous requirements of virtually all authorities. One company has developed a product called Kolatin® - a beef gelatin made from Glatt Kosher beef hides, which was the process that was originally approved for Kosher gelatin production forty years ago. The only Halachik concern with such a product would be its Pareve status, an issue that was indeed dealt with at that time. Rav Moshe Feinstein ruled that clean hides from Kosher animals are not considered meat as regards the rules of Basar B'Chalav M'Doraissa (on a Biblical level). Therefore, if they are processed in such a way as to render them essentially tasteless - as is the case with gelatin - the product is considered Pareve. Rav Aharon Kotler, while disagreeing with this concept, nevertheless allowed its use in milk where it constitutes less than 1/60 of the product (similar to the Halacha of using Kosher animal rennet to make cheese). The Bais Din of the Agudas Yisroel in Yerushalayim also ruled that such material would be considered Pareve. The only practical problem with the product is that its production is tedious and therefore more costly than conventional gelatin. First, only part of the production in a Kosher slaughterhouse is indeed Kosher - some animals are Treifa (having damaged internal organs) and others are not slaughtered properly (Neveila), both of which are not Kosher. As such, hides from Glatt Kosher animals must be monitored and segregated for gelatin production. Second, the hides must be soaked and salted ("Kashered") to remove blood, just as all Kosher meat is processed. Third, the hides used in conventional gelatin production are generally the trimmings and other by-products of the leather industry, which can be purchased at heavy discounts; Kosher hides are prime material and must be purchased at full price. Fourth, the equipment used to produce Kosher gelatin must be completely Kashered from their normal non-Kosher production, a time-consuming and expensive process. In addition, the entire process must be supervised. Nevertheless, Kolatin is used to make true gelatin deserts and real marshmallows, both of which are available with a reliable Kosher certification under the Elyon label.
A second approach to Kosher gelatin has been the use of fish instead of animal material as the original source. Several companies manufacture such products under reliable Kosher certification, foregoing some of the costs associated with Kosher animal gelatin. The major Kashrus issue here is whether one can mix it with meat, since such mixtures are prohibited due to health concerns (see Yorah Deah 116). The consensus of contemporary Poskim is to be lenient in this regard for the following reasons. First, some authorities believe modern health considerations differ from those discussed in the Talmud and that meat and fish mixtures no longer pose a health concern. Second, it is unclear whether all fish were subject to this concern, or whether the rule applied only to the flesh of fish and not to the skins. Third, fish gelatin generally has little flavor, and may therefore pose no concern at all. For all of these reasons, most Halachik authorities have concluded that fish gelatin is truly Pareve even for use with meat.
re: Eric Rosen
As an aside to this, I understand (but have not researched this) that Sephardic communities take the more lenient point of view thus allowing use of gelatin.
In Israel I have seen [Israeli rabbinate]hechshers on items (such as Mentos candies) that are imported from elsewhere that have a disclaimer (in Hebrew of course) "kosher for gelatin eaters".
Rabbi Shimon Eider - (732) 363-3965 - 418 12th St, Lakewood, NJ 08701 is the person who gives the hashgacha on the marshmallows, he gladly answers all questions.
Kosher gelatin is derived from the hoof of a calf (vs. the foot of a pig, which is where traif gelatin comes from). Traditional gelatin is NOT pareve; by definition, it can't be.
However, there are plant alternatives such as agar agar that can take the place of gelatin. Check with your vegetarian friends about them--where to buy, how to use.
Werent marshmellows originally made from the marshmallow plant? I think this is the case and there are still people who make them the old fashioned way.