Last week we saw that if there was some kind of financial incentive to secretly add a non-kosher ingredient into a product, then we require verification that only kosher ingredients were used. What if these incentives don't exist, can we trust the seller?
The Shulchan Aruch says in YD 114:5: "Pomegranate wine which they sell for refuah, medicinal purposes, is permissible to buy it from the store...even if its value is more than wine, because since they are selling it for medicinal reasons, lo marei nafshei." Lo marei nafshei either means they will not risk making their product defective or they are concerned for the reputational risk if they are discovered.
Using the halacha above, one could speculate that you don't need a hechsher on anything nowadays, since so many companies have specialized in their respective products and would presumably be concerned about reputational risk. A single scandal could severely damage a company. So perhaps one could just look at the ingredients on the packaging and use this to decide whether the product is kosher or not?
There are two main problems with this approach: (1) If certain ingredients make up less that 2% of the product by weight, then Federal ingredient disclosures begin to be more lenient. As a result, you might not know specifically what ingredients are in a product or how prevalent they are. (2) Even if you know for certain that only kosher ingredients were used, you still don't know what equipment was used. The absorbed tastes in the factory equipment from the previous runs have the potential to render the food on the current run non-kosher.
What if non-kosher ingredients are indeed present in the product? Are there any circumstances which might still permit them to be consumed?
The Shulchan Aruch says in 114:12: "The Rashba was careful about consuming karkom (a type of spice, possibly saffron), because in the country where he lived...they would mix in small strings of dry meat (to act as a preservative)."
The Shach says that in his day virtually everyone was lenient with karkom, even though it contains these non-kosher ingredients. He gives two reasons. The first is that it is clear that the vast majority of it is just karkom, therefore even if there is a small quantity of these strings of meat, it is nullified and you are allowed to use it even lechatchilah because there is certainly a 1-to-60 ratio. Usually we say that if something in a mixture is distinct, then it can't become nullified and you must remove it. But in this case, it must've been that the pieces of meat were so minute that they were indistinguishable.
Another reason brought by the Shach is that the strings of meat in the spice are so dried out that they have lost their taste and are considered like wood.
This second answer of the Shach has practical implications for modern kashrus because there are so many binders and fillers that are used in medications today that come from non-kosher products. These substances have been processed to the point that they have lost their taste. This could be a basis to be lenient with medicines made with non-kosher ingredients under certain circumstances.
The Shach's answer also has implications for the debate regarding the use of bovine gelatin in food and medicine products. For example, gelatin is used to clear the fogginess from apple juice. It is also used in medicine to make capsules. Those who are lenient say that the gelatin is like wood, neither having a taste for shevach (making the taste better) or lifgam (making the taste worse). They use this characteristic to argue that non-kosher gelatin can be consumed.
Next week we will explore how to regard food items being sold that were pre-cut with a non-kosher knife