Those outside of the Jewish community, although familiar with the term kosher, may not know exactly what it means. Kosher food isn’t necessarily a cultural cuisine such as Mexican food or Italian food. It is better explained as a dietary lifestyle. More specifically, kosher food consists of items that meet the standard of Jewish dietary laws. Here is an outline of the Jewish law pertaining to kosher food provided by Tracey Rich, of www.jewfaq.com:
- Certain animals may not be eaten at all. This restriction includes the flesh, organs, eggs and milk of the forbidden animals.
- Of the animals that may be eaten, the birds and mammals must be killed in accordance with Jewish law.
- All blood must be drained from meat and poultry or broiled out of it before it is eaten.
Certain parts of permitted animals may not be eaten.
- Fruits and vegetables are permitted, but must be inspected for bugs (which cannot be eaten)
Meat (the flesh of birds and mammals) cannot be eaten with dairy. Fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables and grains can be eaten with either meat or dairy. (According to some views, fish may not be eaten with meat).
- Utensils (including pots and pans and other cooking surfaces) that have come into contact with meat may not be used with dairy, and vice versa. Utensils that have come into contact with non-kosher food may not be used with kosher food. This applies only where the contact occurred while the food was hot.
- Grape products made by non-Jews may not be eaten.
Generally speaking, Jewish dietary laws place restrictions on food items. These restriction include prohibiting the consumption of certain foods, implementing a specific preparation process of some foods, and separating certain food items. However, it is important to keep in mind that the points listed above are just a basic outline of the kosher diet, as there are other processes and restrictions associated with kosher food. Moreover, some kosher food guidelines are not universal and can therefore vary in different regions.
In order for members of the Jewish community to “keep kosher”, a phrase that refers to abiding by the Jewish dietary laws, food items are often inspected and certified as kosher. On a basic level, the inspection process often includes exploring the ingredients in a food, and the way in which the food is prepared and processed.
So how can you tell kosher food items apart from non-kosher items? Kosher foods that have been inspected and certified are labeled with a symbol. Here are a few of the most common kosher symbols:
Although kosher is mostly observed by those practicing the Jewish faith, anyone can implement kosher food in their lifestyle. Click here to learn about the health benefits of kosher food.
Rich, Tracey R. “Kashrut: Jewish Dietary Laws.” Judaism 101. N.p., 2011. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.