What Could Be Unkosher About Soda?

Interesting excerpt from some book (funny it doesn’t say which book!) about the process through which Coca Cola originally became certified by Rabbi Tobias Geffen as kosher in 1935. Here’s an interesting point raised in the article:

When Geffen was given the list of ingredients, he discovered that one of them was glycerin made from non-kosher beef tallow…. Back at the company’s laboratories, research scientists went to work finding a substitute for tallow-based glycerin and discovered that Proctor and Gamble produced a glycerin from cottonseed and coconut oil. When they agreed to use to this new ingredient, Geffen gave his hecksher, or seal of approval, for Coke to be marketed as kosher.

Coke originally had a derivative of beef tallow in it! People, know what you put in your mouth. That’s part of what keeping kosher is all about.
Rabbi Geffen’s original tshuvah (responsum) on the subject is translated online.
Around 1990, about 20 years after Rabbi Geffen’s death, there was a bit of a scandal after the Jewish population realized that there was no one certifying Coca Cola as kosher anymore but we were all drinking it anyway. What if they decided to put back in the beef tallow glycerine or something else? In 1991, the OU took over certification of Coke, at least in North America.

18 thoughts on “What Could Be Unkosher About Soda?

  1. Beef tallow is the least of it! Coke used to contain… you know, cocaine. Not only that but the stuff is terrible for you! All that sugar! Why is stuff that is crap kosher? Don’t get me wrong, Coke sure is thirst quenching and I’ve had my fair share. But I do wish the rabbis would make it treiff. Obesity can’t possibly be kosher!

  2. There is no connection between health and kashrut. CK, your comments make no sense. Of course you can simply stop drinking it if you are concerned about its health benefits.

  3. My local Chabad Rabbi, well the one in the Chabad House at McGill and the one in Park Slope are actually pretty trim and healthy. In fact, the people I know who eat the healthiest also happen to be kosher by design. Of course, many Orthodox are still subject to outmoded eating habits, but that’s not the unique purview of the Orthodox. I submit that anyone with an enlightened view of kashrut will eat healthily and conscientously and take into account both one’s health as well as the well being of the environment and the animals involved. This seems to already be happenning – witness the recent ban on foie gras. I look forward to a similar ban on veal as well.

  4. Well geez amechad, the reason we observe kashrut is not because it’s healthy. We observe kashrut because the torah said so – that’s it. But foie gras was declared unkosher, even though it is technically kosher, because of tsaar baalei chayim – unneccessary cruelty to animals. But anyway, I am also pretty certain that Judaism discourages gluttony as well as doing harm to oneself. An enlightened kosher eater ought to avoid empty useless unhealthy calories. I think. But hell, I’m no Rabbi. What do I know.

  5. I had many shobbos and yom-tov meals at a Lubavitcher Rabbi’s home in Crown Heights, who used to work as a mashgiach for Kof-K. He said the kashrus issues with Coca-Cola concerned ingredients made from ‘wineskin derivatives’, which would be problematic due to prohibition of ‘stam yainim’.

  6. well the rambam’s view on eating would certainly require that we think about the healthfulness of what we ingest. (not the same as kosher, but still relevant)

  7. hey all- its interesting to read this aspect of coke b/c for the past year or so i have been a part of a student coalition on campus working to get our university to cut their contracts with coke due to their human rights and enviornmental violations around the world (for more information, see http://www.umich.edu/~coke), and this thursday i am bringing a resolution to our hillel to stop purchasing and consuming coke products at hillel events because coke is not only violating international human rights laws but also jewish laws and halacha (murdering union leaders, depleting communties of their water, etc). if anyone has any advice or suggestions, let me know! i know that this post doesnt exactly relate to the kashrut discussion of coke in the literal sense, but i would definately argue that coke is not kosher in the figurative sense because of the unethical business practices of their corporation

  8. yeah, in response to sincewhenwaskosherhealt hy’s “Hmm, have you looked at your local Chabad rabbi lately,” my local Chabad Rabbi is also very fit. What exactly was the implication?
    This past summer I had a conversation with a relative of mine who was telling me why the frum/orthodox world turns her off. Among various other false stereotypes, (they have sex through a hole in a sheet, etc) one of her main arguments was that the men are all fat. I don’t know where this stereotype came from, but keeping kosher doesn’t make people fat.

  9. Kashrut doesn’t make u fat, but sticking to Eastern European Jewish food does – cholent, schmaltz etc. But what’s wrong with being fat?
    I can’t remember who it was, but one (non-Jewish) comedian once said that you go into a health food shop and everyone’s eating and buying helathy food. But they are all so quiet, joyless and sick looking! Then you go to a Jewish deli, and everyone’s talking, joking, being fat, and eating whatevr they want in whatever quantities they want! Give me a Jewish kosher extra-fat diet anyday!

  10. Apparently when Coke began to get imported into Israel in teh 1960s, the Arab world – who had been addicted to Coke for a while – decided to boycott Coke and switched over to pepsi!!

  11. Grasshoppers used to bo Kosher – int the days of old – but not any more (from what i remember). 😉

  12. G-D Sqaud, my implication was exactly what you said. That just becuase your kosher does not mean your fit, or healthy or whatever. The implication and I stand by it is that many hasidim ( and I mentioned chabad, becuase I am very involved with them) are overweight. I am sure there are exceptions, but studying all day, and little excerise and a traditional diet of salt and sugar will make you fat. All that herring is kosher, but it ain’t good for water retention. Everyone is so fucking defense all them time. I was just saying, that you can be a lard ass and be kosher, and many chabad men are overweight. I’d like to perform a scientific study on the percentage of men in crown heights overweight and I bet it would be higher then it should be.

  13. Coca-Cola was under hashgachah in the post-Geffen period…I don’t recall specifically by whom, or which “organization” had the mandate, post Rabbi Gefffen’s involvement. This lasted MANY years until his retirement in the early 90’s. That precipitated a need to continue providing hashgacha and The Coca-Cola Company initially wanted to engage Triangle-K as Triangle-K had the mandate at the time for its Minute Maid juices. There was a huge uproar and much political posturing, boycott threats, etc. (by O-U??) which followed, including demands that Coca-Cola products not be served in synagogues. At the core was that the formula for Coca-Cola is secret, which raises difficulties (ultimately resolved) when Kashrus certification is desired. At the request of Coca-Cola senior management , a well-reputed and accomplished Rav was asked if he would mind getting involved to hopefully find a way to resolve the core issue and enable certification under O-U. Ultimately, this was achieved and, as far as I know, continues to this day.

  14. as posted by al you dont know what your talking about (lchaim)
    after rabbi gefen rabbi simcha elberg gave the suppervisionfor twenty years until he retired and gave it to his colleage rav ralbag, at that time the ou was eying that account all the years knowing that rav elberg had no kids they were dumbfounded when tri-k got it so they went thru their notorious highway robery scam of the 20th century pulling it off all their shelves ou restaurants hotels etc and replacing it with pepsi because of the sudden rabbits eyes or some other con story that they might put in coke, they went to coke and offered to switch all their restaurants from pepsi to coke if they get the $upervision, this was reported by someone in the ou at the time who was so disgusted with their tactic,but then again its how they run their NON PROFIT bussine$$

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