The OU has announced it is now certifying Maalox as kosher. Why? The OU (incorrectly) notes:
Kosher certification is not required for prescription medications, but it is a requirement for over-the-counter medications – such as Maalox® and Triaminic® – which are not used in life-threatening situations or in cases of serious illness.
Following the OU's incorrect logic, Aspirin, Tylenol, Sudafed, Claratin and dozens of other over the counter medicines also require certification. Further, many OTC drugs were once prescription only. That quickly leads one to realize that prescription drugs used in non-emergency situations or for chronic conditions would also require certification. The OU's statement is false because:
- Only something with taste has the potential for falling under kosher laws. Products without taste are not a problem.
- That taste must be good. If the taste is the product so bad that it would not be consumed as food, the product itself is kosher.
- If the (solid, i.e., a pill) product is swallowed whole and not chewed, the product is kosher. Why? It is not the normal way of eating to swallow food whole. One gets no pleasure or taste from it.
- Even if the medicine is treife, one consumes less that the required amount to count as eating treife.
- Usually only one ingredient out of many found in a pill is treife, and that ingredient – a derivative of a derivative – is almost always batel in the pill itself.
- Gelatin is commonly considered treife, but many significant poskim considered it pareve and kosher, no matter its source. (Indeed, I have personally heard haredi teachers of semicha posit that all gelatin is kosher and pareve even though "we" do not poskin this way.) When consumed as a pill gelatin amounts to less than the required amount to count as eating and is consumed by swallowing not chewing. (See #3 above.) Therefore there is no reason whatsoever to require gelatin capsules to 'kosher.'
- The purpose of consuming the medicine is not for eating or pleasure.
- OTC and prescription drugs have scientifically proved healing qualities. Most herbal and homeopathic medicines do not. The laws of kashrut as applied to medicine were made 2000 years ago for herbal medicines that lacked proved track records of healing. Permitting their use is based on a doctor prescribing them. The case for use of OTC medicines is much stronger and should carry far more halakhic weight. That the haredi world does not view them this way should tell you volumes about that world's understanding of science and its reaction to modernity.
Buy kosher Maalox if you must, but don't do so because of the OU's unnecessary certification. And certainly do not spend more money buying kosher Maalox rather than a generic or competing brand. Use the money you save to help pay your kids tuition.