What is gelatin/gelatine? Is there any alternative to it?
Gelatin (US spelling) or gelatine (British spelling) (used to make Jell-o and other desserts) is made from the boiled bones, skins and tendons of animals. An alternative substance is called Agar-Agar, which is derived from seaweed. Another is made from the root of the Kuzu. Agar-Agar is sold in noodle-like strands, in powdered form, or in long blocks, and is usually white-ish in color.
Some Kosher gelatins are made with agar-agar, most are not. Some things that are vegan that are replacing gelatin are: guar gum and carrageenan. Only some 'emulsifiers' are vegan. Gelatin is used in photography. Although the technology exists to replace photographic film, its price is currently prohibitive and there is insufficient demand. Hopefully, with the growth of vegetarianism and veganism, this situation will soon change.
What is kosher gelatine?
from the Vegetarian Resource Group:
Kosher gelatin can be made with fish bones, and/or beef skins. Contrary to assumptions, it is also considered kosher to use it with dairy products. Kosher law is very complex and the bones and hides used in gelatin production are considered pareve. The general meaning of pareve refers to foods that are neither milk nor meat, and many people assume this means that the product is vegetarian. However, OU pareve certified ingredients can have animal products, such as fish, eggs, and gelatin, in them.
"Kosher Gelatin Marshmallows: Glatt Kosher and 'OU-Pareve'," an article that appeared in Kashrus Magazine, explains the distinctions. A quote from the article is as follows:
"...since the gelatin product is from hides or bones - not real flesh - and has undergone such significant changes, it is no longer considered 'fleishig' (meat) but 'pareve', and can be eaten with dairy products."
Is there vegan gelatine?
from a reader in Germany:
"Gelatine" is a substance made of animal bones and other parts of the animal's body. So if there's a product with "gelatine", it can't be vegan.
But there exists a big variety of substances which are vegan an which have the same properties as gelatine: Cellulose (Amid), Agar-Agar, Biobin, Guar, Xanthan, Carob fruit and others. (Unfortunately I do not know the exact english names, but maybe this will help you already.).
So if you read on the ingredient list that gelatine is used, then you can be sure that this product is NOT vegan. But if one or more of the other mentioned subsances appear on the list, you can be sure that you can eat them even as vegan.
from a reader in the USA:
There must be, because I just attended a Vegan Thanksgiving Dinner at one of the NYU residence halls, and the organizers said that the Jell-O served was a special vegan jell-o.
from another US reader:
Hain makes a Jello product with non-animal gelling substance (no meat, bone, skin, hoof, or any other part/derivative) that is superior to Jello. Also, some 'snack pack' gel snacks are NOT made with gelatin, and available in larger grocery stores (even in texas!), just read the label.
Are there any other foods like gelatin out there?
Rennet, traditionally used as a coagulating agent in cheese making, is derived from the digestive juices of slaughtered calves. Rennet is like gelatin in the sense that it's a common food additive but the foods containing it are often considered vegetarian. See Eggs & Dairy for further details.
Vegetarian Gelling Agents (Vegetarian Society UK Information Sheet)
Is Halal gelatine vegetarian?
from a Muslim reader:
Halal simply means that the animal has been killed according to Islamic law. So it is possible for gelatin to be halal but NOT vegetarian.