Many people think that kosher food, prepared according to Jewish dietary laws under the supervision of rabbis, reduces the incidence of salmonella, E. coli, listeria and other foodborne pathogens.
“I like to think it’s watched more carefully,” said Avigayil Ribner, 23, a research fellow for St. Luke’s Hospital in New York City, who has kept kosher all her life.
But not so, said Sarah Klein, staff attorney at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group. “People think kosher food is safer. We have no evidence of that. None. There’s no data.”
However, the rules for preparing kosher food closely parallel the recommendations of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture for proper food handling. So while research hasn’t proven that kosher food is safer to eat, the way in which it is prepared may reduce the chances of spreading foodborne illness, News21 reports.
The main difference between kosher and non-kosher meats is the way in which animals are slaughtered. For food to be kosher, animals have to be killed individually by a specially trained Jew known as a shochet. Another trained expert then inspects the carcasses for signs of disease. But these steps have no real effect on food safety.
The meat then has to be salted to draw out and remove any blood. One USDA study of poultry found that the salting process weakened the bonds between salmonella bacteria and chicken skin, helping eliminate bacteria. But another USDA study found that kosher and organic poultry had a “high incidence” of contamination by salmonella and listeria bacteria.
Any possible gains from salting are offset by rules that prevent kosher meat from being immersed in scalding water, which helps kill bacteria but makes draining the blood more difficult. Non-kosher meat does receive this added antibacterial step.