Kosher is a Hebrew word meaning ‘fit’ or ‘okay’ – in other words food that is suitable for Jews to eat. The basic laws stem from the Bible itself, but other regulations have been added by the rabbis. Essentially there are five stages to food being kosher:
1. it must come from the right sort of animal : mammals have to have cloven-hoofs and chew the cud (eg cow and sheep but not pig or rabbit); fish have to have fins and scales (ie cod and place but not eel or crab); birds have to be domestic one (ie chicken and duck but not swan)
2. it has to be slaughtered in a a special way that is as humane and quick as possible
3. it has to be cleaned in such a way that the blood is removed
4. it has to be cooked and served in such a way that meat and dairy products are not mixed together at any stage
The sum total is that it means Jews are reminded of their religious values not just at times of prayer but meal-times, so that the faith permeates one’s home and work life.
An observant Jew may only eat and drink foods that have been prepared under strict religious supervision. Unsupervised food products may contain ingredients from non-kosher sources and derivatives can be dairy or meat. Some E numbers, such as fats and preservatives, in milk products come from meat sources and similarly the other way round. Even though this may be only a trace, the product breaks one of the rules of ‘Kashrut’ (kosher).