Here in America we have a ground beef substitute called Boca. It’s a soy product with no meat in it. It has no kosher markings and I’ve read the ingredients and I don’t see beef or meat anywhere on it. Is this substance kosher?
We at “Ask the Rabbi” forwarded your question to the OU, and following is their response: We do not have any knowledge about the Kashruth of Boca Soy Burgers, as the OU has not been asked to certify the product for Kashruth. It is the policy of the OU not to render opinions on the Kashruth of a product if the OU does not have full access to information about the makeup of the product nor about the plant where the product was produced. We suggest that you contact the company to inquire if they are currently under a Rabbinical supervision. If you're given a name of a Rabbi or of a Kashruth organization, then check with your Rabbi if the certification is a reliable one. We hope it would not be considered rude on our part if we were to point out to you - that one CANNOT tell if a product is Kosher or not Kosher just by reading the ingredients list. Allow us to explain why: For example: Our huge data base of products and ingredients has dozens of companies in the business of selling hundreds of various types of flavorings - flavors of such innocence that never in the world would you think that they were Treifa. Suppose you see in the ingredient panel something like ‘strawberry flavoring’ - the first image one has is of someone dunking a bag of strawberries in the brew for five minutes or longer (something like a tea bag- right? ) The truth is that ‘strawberry flavoring’ can be as far removed from a strawberry as pastrami is from milk. Any particular flavor may be made up out of a combination of chemical and so called ‘natural’ ingredients. [Did you know that if one were to take an enzyme from a swine or from any animal - you would be allowed to label the enzyme as an ‘All Natural Enzyme’?] Well, many flavorings, stabilizers, and colorings use ingredients that are animal derivatives. Unless you know the source of each ingredient, you would never know for sure if the ingredient is Kosher or not. Another reason why one can’t rely on what is listed is: The FDA only requires that if the ingredient is at least 2% of the product (the percentage varies depending on the food category) then it must be mentioned in the ingredient panel. Anything less than the specific percentage point doesn’t have to be listed. In Halacha – It isn’t the same. 1.99% of lard will render the product Treifa. Additionally, some type of flavorings, of the type which would be considered ‘mainstays’ of the product [Davar Hamamid], even less that 1% would make the product Treifa. Please bear in mind: when it comes to Kashruth - it’s what you don’t know, that may be the problem. Finally: There is another reason why the ingredient panel won’t tell you everything about the Kashruth of the product. (A reason so simple that it is amazing that people don’t think of it.) Namely: On what equipment was the product made? What other products are made on the very same equipment? Etc…. Just as a good advice to give a friend who is sick is: ‘Leave the diagnosis to a professional’, so too, we give you the same advice. In Kashruth, the same logic should apply. Please don’t hesitate to contact us again should you have any further questions. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org With best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous spring season, and a Happy Kosher Passover holiday, we remain Sincerely, The OU Web(be) Rebbe (Answer recieved from The Orthodox Union)