The Telegraph reports Mars candies and ice cream, including Mars Bars, Snickers, Bounty, Minstrels, Celebrations chocolates, Mars ice cream, Tracker nut bars and Magic Stars made in England may contain animal-derived whey:
Vegetarians who have learned to live without roast beef dinners and bacon sandwiches were yesterday forced to make another major sacrifice: chocolate.
It came after the makers of Britain's most popular chocolate bars, including Mars, Snickers, Maltesers and Milky Ways, admitted that they now contain an ingredient derived from a cow's stomach.…
This month, Masterfoods began using animal rennet to produce the whey needed for its products, rather than a vegetarian alternative. Rennet is extracted from the stomach-lining of slaughtered newborn calves, and is used in traditional cheese production in central Europe. In Britain a microbial alternative made from mould is used.….
Paul Goalby, the corporate affairs manager at Masterfoods, told the Mail on Sunday: "Since changing the sourcing of our ingredients we are no longer able to ensure our chocolate will be animal rennet-free. So we made the principled decision to admit it was not guaranteed to be vegetarian. If the customer is an extremely strict vegetarian, then we are sorry the products are no longer suitable."
- Does the candy remain kosher or does the source of the rennet treife the product?
- Does it matter if some of the rennet used is microbial?
- Does the animal-derived rennet create a basar b'halav problem?
Leave your answers in the comments section.
My initial thoughts are as follows:
- The rennet bears less resemblance to a cow's stomach that leather does to a cow, and leather is pareve.
- The rennet is so heavily processed that it is dry like dust and hard like wood, and should, therefore, be pareve.
- It has no (good) taste and is not consumed as food, so it should not change the kashrut status of food.
- Ze ve ze goram should apply. If some of the rennet used is microbial, the candy should remain kosher, perhaps (note this word: perhaps) even if some batches of candy use microbial rennet and some use animal-derived rennet.
- Cheese was, until the 20th century, normally made with animal-derived rennet because the technology for making rennet from "grasses," as mentioned in Jewish sources, was not well-known. The vast majority of cheese consumed by Jews – frum Jews – was made with animal-derived rennet, often made in the actual stomach of a slaughtered cow. The normative halakha that crystallized sometime in the 1300s (I'm guessing at the time; this might have happened a bit earlier or a bit later) was to allow cheese made from "non-kosher" rennet only if "some" (i.e., not necessarily the majority, just some amount) of the rennet was derived from a kosher source, animal or microbial. This shows two things: First, there is no basar b'halav issue with animal-derived rennet used to make cheese or whey. Second, the addition of any amount, no matter how small, of kosher derived rennet makes the cheese kosher by a legal fiction – the idea that this small amount of kosher rennet can be said to have made the cheese, or that the larger portion of non-kosher rennet could be said to be lacking the strength to make the cheese by itself, the final strength coming from the kosher rennet.
- In our case, the rennet makes whey, a tasteless product that – unlike cheese – is not eaten by itself. It simply is not palatable unless mixed with flavorings and/or sweeteners. Its role in candy-making is to add some chewiness and mouth-feel, as well as some protein. It is unnecessary to the process; the candy can be made without it. Whey was until very recently the unwanted byproduct of cheese-making. It was used in animal feed, in protein supplements, and some foods, to be sure, but much of it was simply put in storage and then dumped. A product like this cannot be treife.
- Therefore, the candy remains kosher.
[Hat Tip: The Beadle.]
Just as the idea that sanity would dominate the issue of animal-rennet-derived-whey in Mars candies made in Great Britain, haredim at the Israeli Chief Rabbinate's office have stepped in to provide our daily dose of haredi-inspired stupidity. Ynet reports:
…“If they are using rennet, then this is a very, very serious problem,” said Rabbi Haim Lasri of the import department at the Chief Rabbinate.
“We approached rabbis abroad who are dealing with the matter, and it’s possible that kashrut will be granted in the future only if there is a change in the ingredients,” he added.…
This "rabbi" clearly is ignorant of the whey-making process and the candy-making process. He doesn't seem to understand the issue. He's heard the word "rennet" and gone into crisis mode.
For more on why rabbis like Hiam Lasri make the mistakes they do, you can read this and comment there.
[Hat Tip for the Update: KK.]
UPDATE 5-17-07: The apparently haredi Manchester, England Beit Din has ruled Mars candy treife, even though normative halakha follows the approach I outlined, and even though the (MO) London Beit Din ruled the candies kosher. The London Jewish Chronicle will have the story in tomorrow's paper.
[Hat Tip for this Update: London Jewess.]
UPDATE 5-18-07: What is the rationale for ruling Mars candy – including Snickers, Mars
Bars and Milky Way – kosher or treife? Remember, the candy's
composition changed recently when Masterfoods, the parent company, began using whey derived using animal rennet. London Jewess sends us, via email, the London Jewish Chronicle's report:
Let me, Shmarya, put this debate into real terms for you. The haredim that control the Manchester Beis Din do not care what the actual halakha is. Using whey derived from animal rennet is not a "leniency," just as using cheese so derived is not. The halakha is concerned about animal derived rennet because, in the case of cheese (but not in the case of whey) it is a considered a dvar maimid, the thing that causes the end product to exist. Yet, in halakha animal rennet – even so-called non-kosher animal rennet – can be used to make cheese, as long as some – even a minute amount – of the rennet used is from a kosher source, as well. This is called ze ve ze goram. Because cheese is a stand-alone product eaten alone, dvar maimid applies. Whey is not a stand-alone product eaten alone, so dvar maimid does not apply. This is the halakha.
… Rabbi Jeremy Conway, director of the London Beth Din’s Kashrut Division, declared the sweets “100 per cent kosher”.
Rabbi Conway said the authority had been “aware for many years that whey can be a by-product of cheese-making and that, even today, animal rennet can be used in cheese manufacture. Since whey derived from this source contains only trace amounts of rennet, it is permitted according to halachah [Jewish law].”
“Regardless of the source of the rennet used in the cheese, however, halacha allows the whey and its derivatives [such as lactose], as the amount of rennet left in the whey is negligible, probably parts per million.”
…Rabbi Hillel Royde, of the Manchester Beth Din… told the JC: “We don’t allow any dairy products without a hechsher [supervising authority licence] and all snacks have to have a hechsher. There is so much available with a hechsher, why should we resort to looking for leniencies?”
Masterfoods … products on the London Beth Din’s approved list remain permissible….
When Rabbi Royde says, "There is so much available with a hechsher, why should we resort to looking for leniencies?,” what he means is, "I supervise other (more expensive) products that contain only vegetarian-sourced whey. This level of kashrut is better than the halakha requires. Why should you settle for regular kosher candy when you can have 'glatt' kosher candy?
Again, the amount of rennet in the final product is in the parts per million range. It is battel. Further, whey is a tasteless, inedible product that needs to be flavored to be eaten. It is a byproduct of the cheese making process and, until recently with the rise of the Atkins and South Beach diets, was viewed as a waste product. High in protein, low in human usage, whey was often dumped or used in animal feed. It was used in food products, to be sure, but sparingly.
The London Beit Din is following the halakha as it has been for at least 1000 years. The Manchester Beit Din is not. Period. End of story.
[Hat Tip: London Jewess.]
UPDATE 5-20-07: Reacting to immense pressure brought by vegetarians, Masterfoods Great Britain has decided to return to microbial-derived whey. Ha'aretz reports:
…Earlier this month, the British-based company began using rennet in many of its chocolate products including Snickers, Milky Way and Twix. The move infuriated vegetarians and generated a flood of complaints.
Though the London Beth Din had issued a ruling that the products would remain kosher, the announcement is welcome news for many local chocolate lovers. According to reports, the Israeli rabbinate remained wary of the new animal-derived ingredient and was considering revoking its seal of approval if British firm Masterfoods, which produces the chocolates, continued its plans.
"We made a mistake. We apologise," the company said in a statement on its Web site. "The consumer is our boss. Therefore we listen to you and your feedback. Therefore we commit to you today, that we at Mars UK will ensure that a selection of your favorite brands Mars bars, Snickers bars, Galaxy and Maltesers, will be suitable for vegetarians in the near future. To this effect we are starting to change our manufacturing process today."
Of course, Masterfoods did not begin using "rennet" in its candy last month; it began using whey derived from a cheese-making process that used animal rennet, as opposed to what it had used previously and will be using again – whey derived from microbial rennet in the cheese-making process. Other ingredients are also animal derived or animal – milk, the whey itself, cream, butter, etc. From a kosher perspective, the more proper term for the "problematic" whey would be "non-vegetarian" or "non-vegetarian derived."
That being said, from my (primarily) vegetarian perspective, I'm glad the whey is again microbial-derived.
[Hat Tip: Michelle.]