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Mythbusters: The Facts all RDs and DTRs Need to Know About Halal and
Kosher Dietary Markets, Session 388
Carol O’Neil [email protected]
The Jewish Dietary Laws I: A PRIMER
Who follows the Jewish Dietary Laws (Kashrut)?
Prior to the end of the 19th century all Jews followed them, today all Orthodox Jews and some
Conservative and Reform Jews follow them. There is a wider consumer base for kosher foods.
MYTH: The Jewish Dietary Laws are in place to assure food is safe to eat or to
improve health.
FACT: With the exception of eating or drinking blood, there is no reason given in the
Torah for these laws, except…at the end of the Kashrut laws in Leviticus, the Torah
admonishes…therefore become holy, for I am holy (Leviticus 11:45).
Why do people observe Kashrut?
 It is a declaration of the covenant
 Jews have been commanded to keep the laws
 It creates a Jewish life-style
 It is a bond that links the Jews of today with generations past
 It is link between the Diaspora Jews and Israel
 It is an expression of faith that ties Jew to Jew
 It is an affirmation of Jews and their will to survive
 It is an act of discipline and strengthens character
Where do the Dietary Laws come from?
These laws are actually commandments which are found in the Tanakh. Many of the
commandments are found in the Book of Leviticus. The commandments are brief; but have been
interpreted and amplified over a period of several thousand years.
MYTH: The Jewish Dietary Laws are the same for all cultures and denominations of
FACT: Although the underlying laws are universal, different cultures have different
interpretations; for example, the length of time between consumption of meat and milk
meals, which foods are allowed during Passover, or even which foods are kosher can differ.
What does kosher mean?
Kosher means “fit” or “proper.” Food that is not kosher is informally termed treife, or “unfit.”
What foods can be kosher?
By tradition, foods are assigned one of three categories:
 Meat and meat products (includes poultry and fish)
 Milk and dairy products, and products derived from dairy products, for example lactose
 Neutral foods (parve or pareve)
However, for foods in the meat and milk groups to be kosher, additional criteria must be met—for
example, only some meats are allowed, and those must be slaughtered and kashered according to
Jewish law. Some denominations do not consider cheeses made with renin kosher. Some parve
foods: fruit, vegetables, and grains, must be carefully examined for insects and worms. Although
table grapes are allowed, wine made from grapes must be prepared and handled according to Jewish
law. If the winery is not kosher, by-products of wine making, like cream of tartar, are not kosher.
Many processed foods and food additives that contain foods that are allowed must be prepared under
rabbinical supervision to determine if they are kosher.
Allowed meat and meat products:
Ruminants with split hooves that chew the cud: cattle, oxen, bison, goats, sheep, deer, and gazelles.
Clean birds are not specifically identified in the Tanakh; however, those that are allowed have a
stomach lining that can be removed with the rest of the gizzard, are not birds of prey, and are
traditionally consumed: chicken, turkey, squab (not commercially available in the US), duck, and
goose. Eggs of clean birds are allowed if they do not contain blood.
Fish must have both fins and scales.
The above meats and poultry must be slaughtered in accordance with Jewish law. Meat (cattle, oxen,
bison, goats, sheep, deer, and gazelles) must be further prepared by removing the sciatic nerve and
attendant vessels. Since this is seldom done in the US and other Western countries, the hind quarters
of the animals are rendered non-kosher and are sold to non-Jews for consumption; thus, foods like
leg of lamb and rump roasts are usually not kosher. Further, blood must be removed from the
animals (meats and poultry); in part, this is done during the slaughtering process, but the remaining
blood must be removed by broiling or koshering (washing and salting the meat). Fish do not need to
be ritually slaughtered or have blood removed.
Treife meat and meat products:
 Pig, bear, horse, camel, and rabbit
 Carnivores, birds of prey, scavengers, and their products
 Shellfish, eels, and any fish that lacks both fins and scales
 Reptiles and amphibians
 Insects and their products (except honey)
Milk and dairy products:
Only milk from allowable animals can be consumed; in the US only cow’s milk and goat’s milk can
be sold commercially.
Parve (neutral) foods can be eaten with either milk or meat meals: Fresh fruit, fresh vegetables,
grains, tea, and coffee. Note that fish can also be consumed with either a milk or meat meal, but
there are additional concerns to keep the foods kosher; for example, although meat and fish can be
consumed at the same meal, they cannot be served on the same plate.
The Jewish Dietary Laws revolve around the designation of kosher foods that are designated as
meat or milk, any meat or meat product in the meal, designates it as a “meat meal,” whereas,
any dairy product or derivative from a dairy product in the meal, designates it as a “milk
The crux of the dietary laws is a complete separation of milk and meat.
 Meat and milk must not be cooked together
 Meat products and milk products must not be eaten together
 Meat and milk products must not be used together
The separation of milk and meat must be complete: different sinks, ovens and stove tops (or they
must be cleaned between use), dishwashers (or separate dishwasher racks must be used), plates,
cutlery, potholders, and towels used during cooking. The timing between consuming a meat meal
and a milk meal is culture dependent. If a meat meal is consumed, there is a waiting period of up to
6 hours before a milk meal can be consumed; if a milk meal is consumed, the waiting period for a
meat meal ranges from almost immediately to an hour.
How to identify kosher foods:
One of the most challenging aspects of keeping a kosher home or food service facility is buying
kosher foods and keeping them kosher. Kosher foods purchased in the marketplace must be prepared
under rabbinical supervision and identified as such by a hechsher or registered symbol or logo. A
major concern in keeping foods kosher is to avoid cross-contamination of meat and milk foods.
Some hechshers identify a food as kosher-dairy.
MYTH: The letter “K” identifies a food as kosher.
FACT: A food identified with a “K” may or may not be kosher; a letter cannot be copyrighted
and the “K” may indicate rabbinical supervision or it may have simply been added by the
Judaism provides a rich celebratory history. The Sabbath and many holidays are tied to traditional
foods (partial list):
The Sabbath: Fish and Roast Chicken (Ashkenazi) are typical foods. Traditionally the best
food a family could afford was consumed. No fires can be lighted from sundown Friday
night to the point when three stars appear in the sky Saturday night.
Rosh Hashanah: Sweet foods (for a sweet year), apples, green vegetables, fish, carrot slices,
and pomegranates are eaten.
Sukkot: Fruit and vegetables are eaten.
Chanukah: Fried foods are eaten.
Purim: A feast day, often vegetarian; Hamantaschen is eaten; and drinking alcohol is
Passover: Unleavened bread. All leavening agents must be removed from the house;
Ashkenazi have additional food restrictions, including: rice, millet, corn, and legumes.
Shavuot: Dairy meals are consumed.
Other holidays are marked with a minor fast (sun-up to sun-down) or a full fast (no food or water
from sun-down to sun-down of the next day).
Minor Fasts: Tzom Gedaliah (the day after Rosh Hashanah), Asarah B’Tevet, Ta’anit Esther, Ta’anit
Bechorim (usualy only the first born son, Shiva Asar B’Tammuz.
Full Fasts:
Yom Kippur, Tisha B’Av.
The Jewish Dietary Laws II: What RDs and DTRs need to know or be able to do:
1. The information in the PRIMER
2. Locate additional information about the Jewish Dietary laws and holiday practices and how it
may affect the needs of their patients/clients or how to manage a food service facility
3. Traditional foodways and not to assume that all Jews follow them
4. Counsel observant patients/clients (in addition to medical nutrition therapy, public health,
and nutrition education knowledge)
a. Understand that Kashrut is not intended to make patients/clients worse and that if
there is any doubt about what can be consumed, to discuss it with the patient and
his/her rabbi
b. That Dietary Laws can pose potential health threats for some patients/clients and
know what to do about them
i. Holiday fasting practices may be detrimental to patients with hypoglycemia,
diabetes, renal or other chronic diseases, or surgical/trauma patients. Work
with physicians and rabbis to determine whether your patients/clients can fast
on these days
ii. Kosher meat may be higher in sodium than non-kosher meats (although the
sodium content of kosher meat is not known), so sodium intake may need to
be monitored and adjusted in patients with cardiovascular diseases, including
hypertension, or renal disease
iii. Timing of milk and meat meals may make it difficult to meet dietary
recommendations for milk, protein, calcium, or vitamin D and how to advise
patients/clients to meet the recommendations while still observing Kashrut
iv. Plan meals that are in accordance with the Jewish Dietary Laws and with
dietary recommendations
c. Hospital policies about families providing kosher food/meals from the outside to
patients/clients and how to assure a patient’s therapeutic diet requirements are met
and food safety practices are observed
d. The majority of enteral nutrition products are kosher, but may contain milk products;
this is especially a concern for patients prescribed an enteral feed while consuming
some food orally or patients taking supplements
e. Contact food companies to better understand their products
5. Maintain a kosher kitchen for a hospital or other food service facilities
a. Work with rabbinical supervisors
b. Locate appropriate purveyors
c. Understand ingredient lists and the sources of foods and food additives
d. Avoid cross contamination of meat and milk products
e. Check produce for insects
f. Manage the higher costs of some kosher products, notably kosher meats
g. Manage and train employees
h. Monitor new foods that are introduced to the marketplace
i. Locate kosher caterers who can provide meals that meet the dietary needs, and
cultural and personal preferences of the patient/client
j. Keep kosher foods kosher
6. Locate appropriate public health services, for example: Meals on Wheels or Congregate
Meal sites
7. Develop foods or recipes that are kosher
8. Conduct research into the dietary habits of observant Jews and their effect on nutrient intake,
dietary adequacy, diet quality, weight/adiposity and cardiovascular risk factors (research
9. Conduct research into the sodium content of kosher meats (research dietitians)
MYTH: Kosher meals are uninspired and choices are very limited.
FACT: Any cuisine can be adapted to the Jewish dietary laws. For example, in major markets,
kosher sushi is available; it has no shellfish, but is very tasty.
The Jewish Dietary Laws III: Resources
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Burns ER, Neubort S. Sodium content of koshered meat. JAMA. 1984;252(21):2960.
Cenci-Goga BT, Mattiacci C, De Angelis G, et al. Religious slaughter in Italy. Vet Res Commun.
2010;34 Suppl 1:S139-143.
Chaudry MM, Regenstein JM. Implications of biotechnology and genetic engineering for kosher and
halal foods. Trends Food Science Technology. 1994;5:165-8.
Demirhan Y, Ulca P, Senyuva HZ. Detection of porcine DNA in gelatine and gelatin containing
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Donin, H.H. (2001). To be a Jew—A guide to Jewish observance in contemporary life. New York.
Basic Books.
Eliasi JR, Dwyer JT. Kosher and Halal: religious observances affecting dietary intakes. J Am Diet
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Farouk MM. Advances in the industrial production of halal and kosher red meat. Meat Sci. 2013
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Feitelson M, Fiedler K. (1982). Kosher dietary laws and children’s food preferences: Guide to a
camp menu plan. Jour Amer Diet Assoc. 1982(4);81:453-456.
Gesundheit B. Medicine and Judaism--a patient is forbidden to endanger his life in order to fast on
Yom Kippur. [Article in Hebrew—English Abstract available] Harefuah. 2009;148(9):583-585,
Gluck S. Salt content of kosher meat. JAMA. 1985;254(4):504.
Grajower MM, Zangen D. Expert opinion and clinical experience regarding patients with type 1
diabetes mellitus fasting on Yom Kippur. Pediatr Diabetes. 2011;12(5):473-477.
Grajower MM. Management of diabetes mellitus on Yom Kippur and other Jewish fast days.
Endocr Pract. 2008;14(3):305-311.
Grandin, T. (2006). Improving Religious Slaughter Practices in the U.S. Anthropology of Food;
Grivetti LE, Pangborn RM. Origin of selected Old Testament dietary prohibitions. J Am Diet Assoc.
Grivetti LE. Food Prejudices and Taboos. In KF Kiple, and KC. Ornelas (eds.). 2000. The
Cambridge World History of Food, vol. 2 (pp. 1495-1513). New York: Cambridge University
Jones RT, Squillace DL, Yunginger JW. Anaphylaxis in a milk-allergic child after ingestion of milkcontaminated kosher-pareve-labeled "dairy-free" dessert. Ann Allergy. 1992;68(3):223-227.
Katz Y, Zangen D, Leibowitz G, Szalalt A. Diabetic patients in the Yom Kippur fast--who can fast
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Kolatch AJ. The Jewish Book of Why. 2000. Middle Village, NY. Jonathan David Publishers, Inc.
Lepicard E. Medica Judiaca. Talmudic Aphorisms on Diet. Israel Journal of Medical Sciences.
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Mosek A, Korczyn AD. Yom Kippur headache. Neurology. 1995;45(3):1953-1955.
Mower MT. Designing and implementing ethnic congregate nutrition programs for older Americans.
J Nutr Elder. 2008;27(3-4):417-430.
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and practice in labor, delivery, and postpartum care. J Transcult Nurs. 2009;20(3):323-333.
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Biotechnology, Food Science, and Policy. 2003;1:95-107.
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Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety. 2003;2;111-127.
Reges O, Vilchinsky N, Leibowitz M, Khaskia A, Mosseri M, Kark JD. Arab-Jewish differences in
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Jewish meal. Eat Weight Disord. 2013;18(1):75-78.
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(Kashruth) on family food habits of an ultra-orthodox population in Montreal. Ecol Food Nutr.
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Additional References—web sites
Judaism 101. Accessed August 1, 2013.
Kosher Quest. Reliable Certifications. Accessed August
1, 2013.
Orthodox Union. Accessed August 1, 2013.
Kosher Certification OK. Accessed August 1, 2013.
Star-K On Line for Consumers. Accessed August 1, 2013.
Star-K On Line The Art of Kosher Wine Making.
Accessed August 1, 2013.
OK vegetable checking guide.
Accessed August 1, 2013.
K-Star-K Insect Checking List. Accessed August 1,
The Jewish Diabetes Association. Accessed August 1, 2013.
Additional References—Cookbooks:
Angel G. Sephardic Holiday Cooking. 1986. New York. Decalogue Books.
Friedland SR. The Passover Table. New and Traditional Recipes for Your Seders and the Entire
Passover Week. 1994. New York. William Morrow Cookbooks.
Friedland SR. Shabbat Shalom. Recipes and Menus for the Sabbath. 1999. Boston, MA. Little,
Brown, and Company.
Goldstein J. Cucina Ebraica: Flavors of the Italian Jewish Kitchen. 2005. San Francisco, CA.
Chronicle Books.
Goldstein J. Sephardic Flavors. Jewish Cooking of the Mediterranean. 2000. San Francisco, CA.
Chronicle Books.
Goldstein J. Saffron Shores. Jewish Cooking of the Southern Mediterranean. 2002. San Francisco,
CA. Chronicle Books.
Marks, G. The World of Jewish Cooking. 1996. New York. Simon and Schuster.
Nathan J. Jewish Cooking in America. 1994. New York. Alfred Knopf.
Nathan, J. The Jewish Holiday Baker. 1999. New York. Knopf Publishing Group.
Nathan J. (Jewish Holiday Cookbook. 2004. New York. Schocken Books.
Plotch B, Cobe P. The Kosher Gourmet. 1992. New York. Fawcett Columbine.
Roden C. The Book of Jewish Food. 1996. New York. Alfred A. Knopf.
Sokolov R. The Jewish-American Kitchen. 1989. New York. Stewart, Tabori, and Chang.