5

Could someone explain to me on which basis/principle products like shellac are allowed to use (according to kashrut)? While products like Cochineal, Carmine, Carminic acid (E120) aren’t, because the Torah teaches us not to eat certain insects.

2
5

See here for a comprehensive overview.

Firstly a bit of background for the uninitiated:

Shellac

Shellac or “confectioner’s glaze”, as it is referred to in the colloquial, is a resin that is secreted by the female lac bug. For commercial use, the resin is collected from trees, processed, and purified so that it does not contain any insect parts which may have stuck to it. The purified resin is dissolved in three to four parts ethanol to make liquid shellac used as a transparent food glaze which works well to maintain a long-lasting shine on a product.21 Shellac is used in jelly beans and rainbow sprinkles amongst other goodies.

Carmine

Carmine is produced by heat-drying cochineal insects until they are completely dehydrated and subsequently crushing them into powder. The powder is then boiled in water which serves to extract carminic acid which is present in the powdered insects. Use of added chemicals causes the colouring and animal matters present in the liquid to precipitate into a red pigment.

And the reason why Shellac is allowed:

Can you think of another sticky substance that is secreted from a non-kosher insect that we might consider similar to shellac? You are likely thinking of honey which secretes from a bee. So why is honey kosher? Two possibilities are considered in the Gemara. The first is based on logic that honey does not inherit non-kosher status from the bee, since honey does not extract any nutrients or proteins from its host. The second is based on a drasha, a way of reading the verse in the Torah that prohibits the consumption of a sheretz ha’oaf, a flying insect, while excluding the substance that the sheretz ha’oaf secretes. That substance is identified by the rabbis as bee’s honey. The difference between the two cited possibilities is that the former is more inclusive and allows us to permit all secreted substances that do not extract nutrients or proteins from their respective hosts, while the latter is exclusive as it can only incorporate substances whose characteristics are most similar to those of bee’s honey. Shellac is obviously quite different from honey as it is secreted from the lac which is not a flying insect at all, rather a sheretz ha’aretz, an insect that lives on the land, and does not fit into the drasha.

Many halachic authorities seem to indicate that they are comfortable with the former, more inclusive view which allows shellac. Furthermore, some say that since shellac is, from its inception, as dry as a bone and completely inedible, it should not take on the status of its host even according to the more exclusive view (Refer to Igros Moshe, cheilek 5, Yoreh Deah II Siman 24). Unlike carmine which is essentially the dried out insect itself, shellac is an inedible secreted substance which emanates from the insect and therefore should not inherit the kosher status of its host.

As per the footnote (No. 25) the thinking is derived from Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 86:7 which reads:

אפרוח שנולד מביצת נבילה וטריפה מותר

A chick born from the egg of a Neveila (i.e. a dead carcass of an animal that was not ritually slaughtered) and a Tereifa (i.e. an animal that did have ritual slaughter but was found to have a defect that makes it not Kosher e.g. a hole in the lung) is permitted.

The idea being, that in the same way an egg that hatches from a kosher animal does not take on the status of what its parent is now deemed, and is judged in isolation as being Kosher, so too, with Shellac we look at the substance in isolation and not from the source it comes from.

1

Shellac (/ʃəˈlæk/)[1] is a resin secreted by the female lac bug on trees in the forests of India and Thailand. It is processed and sold as dry flakes (pictured) and dissolved in alcohol to make liquid shellac,

Definition of cochineal 1: a red dye consisting of the dried bodies of female cochineal insects

Since cochineal is the actual insect itself it is not kosher. That would be like eating pork or drinking the milk of the pig. On the other hand shellac is a secretion of the lac bug in the same way that bee honey is kosher. In light of modern science, why is bee honey still kosher?

2
  • So castoreum is also kosher? Or pig milk?
    – Levi
    Nov 16 '20 at 17:41
  • No I said pig milk is not kosher. Drinking milk of a nonkosher animal is as nonkosher as eating the meat. @Levi Castoreum is the secretion from the internal organs of a beaver so it would probably not be kosher (like milk). Nov 17 '20 at 1:15

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .