Lobster Shells - Might they be Kosher?
It is well known that non-Kosher foods may not be eaten, however, what is not well known is that they may be ingested.
Gd is not concerned with our bodies being sustained by non-Kosher food. Gd's prohibition is that we not eat non-Kosher food. And eating has a very precise definition. When this definition is not met, then one is not eating and accordingly not transgressing Gd's command.
If this feels like an attempt to cheat the system, then one must realise that such feelings are predicated upon our own evaluations and are in fact quite wrong.
Swallowing foods without chewing them, or chewing and eating foods that are not pleasant tasting and are therefore not deemed to be food by normal people - is not defined as eating by Torah Law.
This of course leads us to an important discussion about many tonics and medical value products we consume which are not foods or are not consumed as foods.
Glucosamine is primarily used to treat joint and bone disorders including osteoarthritis. In a modified version it is known as Chitosan, a dietary fibre, and is used as a fat absorber to promote weight loss.
These products are derived from the shells of crab, shrimp and lobster. However, this does not mean that they are not Kosher.
These soft shells have only a very faint flavour, a "fish reaction flavour" [as described by Dr. Chong Lee, professor in the Department of Food and Science at the University of Rhode Island; similar to the findings of The Lobster Institute at the University of Maine - as reported by the Star-K] which is difficult to extract and requires extended cooking.
"Shellfish Broth", is indeed made by cooking shells, but is actually flavoured by traces of meat adhering to the shell.
It can be argued that although what was once non-Kosher, loses that designation when it becomes a non-food, known in Halacha as "dry bones" AtzaMos YeVeiShos, nevertheless soft shells which can release "fish reaction flavour" are perhaps not quite in that category.
Calcium and protein are removed from the shells producing a product known as Chitin [a polysaccharide - a combination of various sugars] Since these processes include immersion in hydrochloric acid, the product is no longer deemed to be a food and is consequently Kosher in spite of its origins. This is a throwback to the well researched and debated topic of the Kashrus status of gelatine. See this and this
Star-K asserts that glucosamine, chitosan, and chitin, are non-kosher when derived from such shells. Today, Kosher certified glucosamine is available and is produced through fermentation of corn.
Deer Antler Velvet
Male deer grow new antlers annually. Before they harden, they are a soft cartilage, covered by soft velvety fur. At this stage of their development, when the blood supply is at its maximum and nutrients are being pumped into their growth, they are harvested to be processed into energy supplements. Star-K assert that such products are not Kosher.
Collagen is protein extracted from animal bones and skin, best known as gelatin, but also used to treat wounds and as a health tonic for example, the collagen derived from chicken breast bone, the sternum, is used to treat arthritis.
Star-K permit use of collagen for cosmetic purposes such as injecting it beneath the skin to remove wrinkles, smooth scars, and make lips appear fuller. [It must be noted that it is both surprising and also a sad commentary on our community, that Kosher organisations have so successfully promoted their case that Kosher consumers without being told otherwise actually think that it is prohibited to use collagen in this manner.]
But not all cosmetics procedures are permitted. Permanent colourings such as micro pigmentation and cosmetic tattooing, insert pigments below the top layer of skin which is prohibited by the Torah - tattooing (KeSoVes KaAKa)
Other Tonics and Remedies
There are similar discussions regarding:
Star-K provides the following guidelines from Rabbi Moshe Heinemann:
In all cases we rely upon expert opinion, even if it is considered unconventional and not recognized by the general medical profession.
Choleh Sheyaish Bo Sakana
Products that may help extend ones life may be consumed.
If they are only proposed to alleviate pain and suffering and are consumed as a food, a Rov should be consulted. [Biur Halacha 328:4, Kol SherReGilim]
Choleh She'ain Bo Sakana
Products that may help enhance function and comfort may be consumed SheLo KeDerech AchiLa, in an uncommon fashion, for example swallowing good tasting foods without chewing them, or eating poor tasting consumables.
Mechush and Baree
Products proposed for minor discomforts or as tonics may perhaps be consumed SheLo KeDerech AchiLa, in an uncommon fashion, for example swallowing good tasting foods without chewing them, or eating poor tasting consumables; a Rav should be consulted.
Products proposed to prevent possible deterioration to a more severe status, are permitted as per the final status that they intend to prevent; either a choleh she'ain bo sakana, or a choleh sheyaish bo sakana or a choleh she'ain bo sakana.