Good From Bad Research and development in the food industry has produced new ingredients using various processes including fermentation. Often the motivation is not to find new ingredients but to economise by converting waste into valuable products. Some of these find their way into many of the foods and products we use
[About 50% to 70% of a cow or calf gets turned into meat that we humans eat. The bits of cow that people do not eat add up to about 5 billion kilograms per year. These bits go everywhere. In the olden days cows were used for meat, leather, soap and candles - and that was it. But after World War II, incomes began to rise, and the world demand for meat increased. At the same time industrial and chemical companies began to diversify in many different ways. There was a large supply of previously-unwanted cow parts, and the factories gobbled them all up. 1. The lungs and the cow mucosa are used to make heparin - an anti-coagulant drug. 2. Steroid drugs are made from the adrenal glands. 3. The pancreas gives us insulin. 4. The cow's placenta gives us cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. 5. The dura mater is used in human brain surgery as an implant. 6. The dividing septum in the nose of the cow gives us chondroitin sulphate, which is used to treat arthritis. 7. The blood gives us adhesives for plywood, as well as chemicals in foam fire extinguishers, and fertilisers. 8. The bone and fat are used to make tallow, which is then used to make fatty acids, which then gives us a. brake fluid b. lubricants for jet engines. 9. The fat from the meat bone, hooves and horns gives us edible tallow which is used in chewing gum, and as shortening in baked goods. 10. But the tallow also gives us inedible fats and oils which in turn are used to make a. synthetic motor oils, b. antibiotics, c. food packaging, d. acne medication, e. detergents, f. water proofing agents, g. and of course glycerine. 11. Glycerine is used to make a whole range of pharmaceuticals from a. cough drops b. to ear drops, c. as well as inks, d. anti-freeze mixtures, e. car paint polishes, f. and hair and scalp conditioners. 12. The collagen which comes from the cows' connective tissue and skin is used to make many biomedical products such as a. corneal shields, b. injectable collagen for incontinence treatments, c. meat casings for sausages d. as well as food additives e. and antibiotic wound dressings. 13. And of course the collagen can be used to make gelatin which gives us many food uses such as a. powdered gelatine b. and instant jelly, c. as well as uses in cosmetics, d. photographic uses e. and health pharmaceutical products]
Alcohol from Sugar Fermentation is the commonly known process employed to make wine, vinegar, beer and bread. Micro-organisms which individually are invisible to the unaided eye, consume sugars converting them into alcohol and carbon dioxide. So, bread rises due to the carbon dioxide captured in the dough (pity about the alcohol though which evaporates during the baking); wine and beer become alcoholic through the conversion of sugars. There are many other effects these micro-organisms have upon the product they react with, many of them are not well understood and are being actively researched. [The Kluyver Centre uses genomics for improving the use of micro-organisms in industrial fermentation processes, with a view to making sustainable, environmentally friendly and value-added products. They are a leading player in the international fermentation industry. Industrial fermentation is used for the production of food products and ingredients, beverages, pharmaceutical compounds, nutraceuticals and fine and bulk chemicals.]
Milking Micro-Organisms But there is another benefit we derive from these micro-organisms. We farm them just like we farm cows for their milk. We do not just add them as modifiers to a dough or grape juice; we grow them and cultivate them for their by-products.
Actually it’s much easier than milking cows. The microbes are placed in a warm damp environment with plenty of food and after some time we collect whatever they have produced. That’s how we farm/manufacture penicillin and for the home brewers amongst us, that’s how you are provided with a particular strain of yeast for the beer you so enjoy. Every BalAbusta that honours Shabbos by baking her own Challos will use yeast, either fresh or dried, farmed in this manner.
The dairy sounding Lactic Acid [Lact- in Latin refers to milk, lact-and “ose” indicates a sugar, as in sucrose, fructose, etc.] is the sugar that is distilled from milk. It is commercially derived from milk, or whey, and is Milchig (dairy) according to some authorities [Rabbi G. Price; although he fails to name these authorities], although only mid’rabbanan.
Rabbi Yosef Sholom Elyashiv rules SEE that Lactose may be eaten immediately after meat. He maintains there are two reasons for this: A) during its processing it becomes Halachically disqualified as a food; B) even if it would not be so disqualified it is generally produced from whey which is not truly dairy. Therefore if a prohibition was implemented it is only against consuming it together with meat and is prohibited only because of Maris Ayin. Accordingly Rabbi Elyashiv rules that lactose may be consumed after having eaten meat.
All agree however, that Lactic acid is not dairy since it is farmed by feeding the micro-organisms an inexpensive non-dairy sugar, such as glucose]) is farmed/fermented from bacteria commonly found in milk (it’s what gives sour milk its distinctive odour and taste) fed on an inexpensive sugar, such as glucose [Lactic acid is also the end result of a process in our body called 'glycolysis'. When muscles are strenuously exerted they use the oxygen supplied by the blood more rapidly than it can be replenished. A process called Glycolysis then ferments pyruvate to produce lactic acid, this process is the first stage of the ‘Lactate Shuttle’]. Citric acid is produced by fermentation in a similar process as is Monosodium Glutamate, a flavour enhancer.
Lily-Pods, Biopolymers & Polysaccharides Many years ago the United States Department of Agriculture made extensive research to screen a large number of biopolymers for their potential uses. They observed that pathogenic bacteria (E.coli for example) commonly produce a thick, mucous-like, layer of polysaccharide. (nearly two hundred different polysaccharides are produced by E. coli alone) This "gel capsule" protects antigenic proteins on the bacterial surface that would otherwise provoke an immune response leading to the destruction of the bacteria.
They discovered what is today known as, Xanthan Gum. Today, tonnes of this stuff is produced every week by a biotechnological process involving fermentation of glucose or sucrose, by the Xanthomonas campestris bacterium.
Slime Of The Lily In Your Salad These capsular polysaccharides are water soluble and generally acidic. They are used to keep cream cheese moist, thicken salad dressings and add body to ice cream and in general industry as a rheology modifier.
Who would have thought that the slime on lily pods would become a ubiquitous food additive?
One of the most remarkable properties of Xanthan Gum is its ability to produce very large increases in the viscosity of liquids. Unlike other gums it is very stable under a wide range of temperatures and pH, and is accepted as a safe food additive in, and Europe, E number 415.
Xanthan gum, along with guar gum, is sometimes used as a substitute for gluten in baked goods. In the oil industry it is used to increase the viscosity of water pumped into wells to enhance residual oil recovery.
You May Be What You Eat But Enzymes Are Not Now, we must consider a very important Halachic question: if we put a substance into a pot and sometime later remove something which is quite different from that pot, are we to consider this new stuff a derivative of the stuff we originally in the pot? Or to put it another way, are enzymes produced by micro-organisms the same Halachic character as the food consumed by the micro-organism?
We may consider the following: if we fed cows with non kosher foods, would the Halacha consider the milk of those cows to be non-Kosher? Certainly not. Similarly, there ought to be no problem with substances produced by these organisms which are drawn off in a pure state.
The organisms that produce Xanthan Gum are generally fed with cheap corn syrup. If, in the eyes of the Halachah, the by-product of these micro-organisms is deemed to be corn syrup, then Ashkenazim, who do not eat corn on Pesach (kitniyos), would not be permitted to consume Xanthan Gum on Pesach. Ashkenazim might also be troubled on Pesach by a common sweetener in our low cal diet directed culture, Aspartame, also a by-product of micro-organisms fed with corn syrup.
The Shevat HaLevi in his Teshuvos, 5:56 argues that when a food becomes disassociated from its origins, it is Nishtaneh; and if it has both chemical changes to its structure and also a change in its taste it is no longer associated with its original identity. Thus, the many foods produced by fermentation in which the final product is changed in both taste and form from the feedstock, would qualify as Nishtaneh and be permissible even if they originated from non-Kosher foods. Nevertheless some hashgacha agencies will not permit the use of such products [Rabbi Gavriel Price; he fails to identify these Poskim]
Other Poskim hold that Nishtaneh can only apply if the ingredient became inedible before it was changed. Since standard fermentation processes generally utilise feedstock that is comfortably edible, even dramatic changes made through fermentation would not qualify as Nishtaneh. Nevertheless, Aspartame sweetened diet foods pose no hurdle for Ashkenazim on Pesach since the kitniyos are bottel. [Mishna Berura (453:9) There appears to be an inconsistency: Aspartame sweetener is acceptable for Pesach use since it is Bottel yet chocolate with Lecithin (derived from kitniyos) is not accepted although it should similarly be considered Bottel]
Three examples spring to mind. Authentic bird's nest soup is made using the nests of the Swiftlet, a tiny bird found throughout Southeast Asia . The Swiftlet lives in dark caves, using a method of echolocation similar to the bat to find its way in the dark. Instead of twigs and straw, this bird makes its nest from strands of its own gummy saliva, which hardens when exposed to air. These nests are harvested (an extremely dangerous business at which many harvesters die each year from falling whilst prying the nests from the cave walls). They are cleaned and sold to restaurants, traditionally simmered in chicken broth. Although the Swiftlet is not a Kosher bird, the soup made from its nest (its saliva) is kosher since the nest is Pirsha BeAlma, i.e. not food]:
Back to our topic, three foods created through non-K ingredients,
Musk, an aromatic substance secreted by the male Musk Deer.
Musk Regarding musk: there is a dispute cited by the Rosh (Berachot 6:35); Rabbi Zerachia Halevi (the BaAl HaMaOr) forbade eating musk because of a suspicion that it is essentially blood. [Another example of animal matter that undergoes significant change is ambergris, a fatty deposit formed from bile in the innards of sperm whales. It is thought to aid digestion, and is vomited up by the whale and floats on the sea surface. It is initially soft and fatty, but after floating on the surface of the sea and exposure to the elements, hardens to become a rock-like substance which looks like dark slate-grey pebble with striking pale veins inside it. The hardened vomit has a distinctive sweet smell and is highly sought after in the perfume and pharmaceutical industry] Rabbeinu Yonah explains however, that it is permitted because it is not blood but a waste non edible product. Even though it originated from blood we assess its Kosher status by its present identity. Rabbeinu Yonah brings a most remarkable proof for his position; if prohibited foods fall inadvertently into honey [some versions read, the bees themselves or their parts, the honey is nevertheless Kosher since the nature of honey is that it overwhelms the non-Kosher food converting it into honey. This seems to make more sense as R’Yona is referring to honey which we assume is generally contaminated [in those days the honey was not clarified] with bees bits and pieces yet one may consume them with the honey. We find none who warn or propose that it is commendable not to eat honey for fear of consuming the bee parts. Thus he has his proof; bees B&P become Kosher by becoming altered through their immersion in honey and thus the Rosh’s amazement of R’Yona’s proof is resolved.
This seems to indicate that forbidden food can be significantly changed to the point where it loses its traceability from its origin. The Rosh expresses some amazement about Rabbeinu Yonah’s lenient approach saying that even his proof requires substantiation.
The Chafets Chayim in Mishneh Berurah (216:7) indicates that many Poskim permit using musk in the fist instance, even if we suspect that it originates from blood since it is now something else.
Cheese Regarding cheese; we have the Torah rule that actually permits us to purchase cheese made by non-Jews since cheese can not be manufactured from non-Kosher milk. Even if a combination of kosher and non-Kosher milk is used, the cheese which is formed from the curd is comprised only of the Kosher milk, the whey which drains from the curd contains all the non-Kosher milk. [RaMBaM MaAchoLos A’SuRos 3:13]. Now in order to make [yellow] cheese we must add an enzyme known as Rennet to the milk. Rennet is produced by glands in the calf’s "abomasum", its fourth stomach. [It just so happens that adult mammals don't have this enzyme; only youngsters that need it to help digest and absorb milk produce these enzymes. Pretty neat, no? Sounds like intelligent design and plan and purpose. In order for milk to coagulate and eventually become cheese, enzymes must be added to breakdown the proteins that keep the milk solids in suspension. Some enzymes do this better than others, but all of these enzymes are in the protein breaking subclass known as proteases. The best proteases or coagulants for making cheese are the types that break a specific protein called kappa casein. Rennet is defined in Webster's Unabridged Dictionary as "the lining membrane of the fourth stomach of the calf (and/or) a preparation or extract of the rennet membrane, used to curdle milk, as in making cheese…." Rennet is also used broadly to describe any enzyme used for the coagulation of milk in the process of making cheese. Rennin is defined as "a coagulating enzyme occurring in the gastric juice of the calf, forming the active principal of rennet and able to curdle milk." The cheese industry uses a broader definition of the term rennin, referring to it as "any enzyme used for the controlled coagulation of milk." Chymosin, often used as another word for rennin, is the most common enzyme recovered from rennet]
The Old Cheese-Making Method In the good old days, the non-J farmers would kill a calf and pour the contents of the abomasum [the fourth stomach] into a vat of milk and wait for the magic to happen. The milk would be converted into cheese. This cheese, prior to the Rabbis’ decree, was Kosher [There appears to be some confusion in this matter, some people consider that, “Historically, rennet was considered Kosher only when it was extracted from Kosher slaughtered calves.” Others suggest that, “In earlier generations, in order to make kosher cheese it was necessary to use rennet from an animal that was slaughtered and kashered properly.” None cite Halachic sources for these positions] and could be purchased from any non-Jew. Then the farmers realised that rather than using the contents of the stomach they could use the stomach itself or its inner lining, by immersing it in the milk and allowing some of the rennet to leech out into the milk. This cheese according to the RaMBaM is prohibited.
Cheese May Be A Prohibited Combination Of Meat And Milk Although Halacha permits cheese set with the non-Kosher contents of the calf’s stomach it prohibits cheese set with the non-Kosher flesh of a calf’s stomach [It appears that the enzymes captured in the stomach lining are deemed by Halacha to be meat and thus not Kosher if the animal is not Kosher or is not slaughtered to Kosher standards]. In fact Halacha even prohibits in the first instance, making cheese with the stomach flesh of a Kosher and properly slaughtered animal since it is a combination of meat and milk [RaMBaM MaAchoLos A’SuRos 9:16]. So, the only way we can have Kosher cheese is by using the rennet which is separated from the stomach wall of the calf and found in the contents of the calf’s stomach [One wonders if in order to be Kosher the rennet must be naturally separated from the meat of the stomach or might it be Kosher even if artificially separated] or by thoroughly dehydrating the stomach [which does not harm the enzymes], before using it .
The Sages’ Decree When cheese production using the stomach became a more common method, our Sages stepped in and forbade all cheese manufactured by non-Jews even those made with the contents of the calf’s stomach [And according to the RaMBaM even cheese that can be identified as being manufactured without rennet] and most prohibited cheese made by non-Jews even if made with non-animal ‘rennet’. This is somewhat akin to the prohibition of various foods cooked by a non-Jew, the Rabbis forbade it with a decree known as Bishul Akum even though we are confident that the ingredients and equipment are all thoroughly Kosher.
Now the point of this digression is the following: we see that even today we can make Kosher cheese using the contents of the fourth stomach of a calf;
in spite of that calf being killed and not shechted,
in spite of the calf being a Tereifo [Literally “torn”. Any animal with a blemish in any of its vital organs is not Kosher]
and in spite of the calf having ingested non kosher milk
So both the rennet and the digested milk found in the stomach of the killed calf are Kosher since they are not food but Pirsha BeAlma [A non-food waste product. See Sh”Oruch Y”DeAh 87]. We have it seems, a fairly clear proof that food [milk] that has been spoiled [through digestion in the calf’s stomachs] is Kosher, even if it is specifically harvested to process other foods [cheese] and that enzymes that have been cultivated on a non-Kosher medium is nevertheless Kosher. However some contemporary Poskim [Rabbi Zushe Yosef Blech] maintain that enzymes do have the Halachic status of the media upon which they are grown.