But Rabbi! It comes from a beetle! How can it be Kosher?
Carmine E120, Beetles
The Halachic discussion below is taken from the very popular series of Halacha books, “BeMarEh HaBazak”. These volumes are a collection of the Halachic queries made from all over the world to a panel in E Israel comprised of the most eminent scholars. The title which can be roughly translated to – "Like a Flash of Lightning" - reflects the electronic manner in which these queries were sent to the panel.
What is the Law regarding the Kashrus of the food colouring, Carmine? May a "Kosher Certificate" be provided for Carmine, a natural food colouring that is derived from [non-K] insects that are found on cactus plants? Carmine is manufactured by dehydrating the insects after which they are pulverised.
A "Kosher Certificate" may be provided for Carmine that is more that one year old. This count begins with the death of the insects. [Meaning that although the insects may have only been converted into the finished product a short time ago, it may be certified as Kosher provided the insects have been dead for one year.]
This is the opinion of the Shoel U’MeiShiv quoted by the Darkey Teshuvah Y”D 102:30. This ruling satisfies the ShaArey TzeDek and is also the understanding of the MinChas Yitzchok 3:96.
A “Kosher Certificate” may be provided for foods that utilise non “Kosher Certified” Carmine as an ingredient, even if it can not be verified that the Carmine is at least 12 months old.
This is the opinion of the Shoel U’MeiShiv and the Pischey TeShuvah Y”D 87:20 who quotes the Tiferes Tzvi. However the ShaArey Tzedek, quoted by the Darkey Teshuvah 87:133, disagrees. conclusion of BeMarEh HaBazak See Original
Why may it be legitimately assumed that Carmine is 12 months old if it is an ingredient?
Are we permitted to make assumptions that things are Kosher in cases of doubt? For example, some food ingredients can be derived from animal [non-Kosher] sources and also from Kosher, non animal sources.
May we assume, where such an ingredient is listed, that it is sourced from the Kosher supply?
Obviously there are other factors at play in this situation. Clearly, the 12 month time consideration is not critical, it is an approximation by which we can safely assume that the product is indeed thoroughly dried out and can be safely considered to no longer be the prohibited product. Since Carmine’s production requires that it be thoroughly desiccated this is essentially sufficient for us to accept it as Kosher. On the other hand, to certify Carmine itself as Kosher we would adhere to the time honoured requirement that it be 12 months old.