Here's a great tip:
Enter your email address and we'll send you our weekly magazine by email with fresh, exciting and thoughtful content that will enrich your inbox and your life, week after week. And it's free.
Oh, and don't forget to like our facebook page too!
Contact Us

Non-Kosher Insulin Injections

Non-Kosher Insulin Injections

 Email

Question:

I have type 2 diabetes, and I'm unable to control it adequately with oral medication, and thus require insulin injections. The products my doctor is suggesting are made either from human cadavers or porcine (pork) product. What should I do?

Answer:

Taking shots made of porcine product does not pose any problem whatsoever. We are forbidden to orally ingest pork, but may benefit from non-kosher foods or their byproducts in other ways.1 This applies to non-medical areas as well, such as playing football with a pigskin ball, or wearing clothing made of leather which comes from a non-kosher animal.

[Bear in mind that the laws of kosher are suspended in many instances for medical purposes. Speak to an expert rabbi if you find it necessary to take oral medicine which is not kosher.]

Injections which contain human remains do present a problem because we are forbidden to benefit from human bodies (see Are cadaver transplants allowed?).2 I would therefore advise you to take the porcine product insulin shots.

Wishing you continued success in your efforts to keep healthy under trying circumstances.

Wishing you a happy, healthy and sweet new year!

Yours truly,

Rabbi Menachem Posner

Footnotes
1.

The exception to this rule is a mixture of dairy and beef which was cooked together. Also, there are rabbinic restrictions on doing business in the non-kosher food industry.

2.

Though also not categorically forbidden in case of medical necessity.

Rabbi Menachem Posner serves as staff editor for Chabad.org.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
 Email
Join the Discussion
Sort By:
27 Comments
1000 characters remaining
Natalie Sera March 24, 2016

No insulins were EVER made from cadavers. And nowadays, one would be hard put to find even beef or pork insulin. The vast majority of people use synthetic insulins made from a recombinant DNA process using yeast. So no one has to worry about what their injections contain. Reply

Anonymous Abingdon, MD April 24, 2014

Did I just read that correctly? I've gone out of my way to avoid buying any shoes, jackets or balls that have porcine leather. Can I indeed buy these products? If so, are there forbidden places to wear them? Reply

Irena McClain, MPH/Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi Mississippi-USA April 24, 2014

Because of Mad Cow disease risks, Beef insulin is no longer manufactured in the USA. Chicken insulin has not ever been available.Here is information from the FDA on pork and beef insulin-apparently it is available in some other countries but there are strict guidelines on importing it. You can google information on FDA guidelines for importing beef insulin.

The International Diabetes Federation has a handout on insulin-how it was processed and how is now manufactured as well as information on structure of insulin and similarity between species. Reply

Lisa Providence, RI April 14, 2014

I've read somewhere about beef or chicken insulin.

Ask your doctor about it. Reply

Kenan Moss Carayaca. October 19, 2013

Irena McClain, when one reads the opinions of many people one can't help but ask: where on earth they were educated and where on earth they live? Thank HaShem that there are people like you who take the trouble to inform the ignorant. I hope that they will not only hear what you have said so clearly but, that they will listen. Reply

Irena McClain, MPH- Associate Director, Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi USA October 17, 2013

Maybe this link will help explain how insulin is made. it is not derived from human cadavers nor is it obtained from slaughtered animals. Genetically engineered human insulin has been in production for over 35 years. Please take the time to google "making human insulin" for more information on the process.

Some companies grow the human insulin in yeast (Novo Nordisk brands) while others grow it in bacteria (Lilly brands). Sanofi insulin Apidra and Lantus are also genetically engineered. There is no insulin available today that is derived from animals, kosher or non-kosher, nor is human insulin derived from human cadavers. Reply

Kenan Moss Carayaca. October 16, 2013

I thought that insulin was being produced from genetically modified E-Coli bacteria for at least the last tree decades. If this is so, would it pose an halachic problem? Reply

Anonymous Camarillo, CA, USA via chabadcamarillo.com July 21, 2013

The long list does not change my premise.

None of those things are kosher for Passover for Ashkenazim , and none of them are ingredients in Passover food, except for Matzah. Anyone keeping the Passover prohibitions who is not eating Matzah is not eating any of the things in your expanded redefinition of wheat. Reply

Anonymous Camarillo, CA, USA via chabadcamarillo.com July 21, 2013

The way that this was explained to me was that kosher animals were created, according to the explanation I was given, so that they could be killed by humans, either as sacrifices or for kosher food, and that letting them live until they die of natural causes is, according to this explanation, a waste of their lives.

I don't agree with this, but you have to understand the premise before you can appreciate the conclusion.

I am not sure how non-kosher animals fit into this, because they can't be used for sacrifices or for kosher food.

I assume that the purpose of dead human bodies would be to buried (by "purpose", I mean G-d's reason for having humans become corpses instead of disappearing at death).

Once you understand the underlying belief about why animals and corpses exist, it does make logical sense to use each for its intended purpose.

But if you think the purpose of a corpse is to be useful and the purpose of an animal is to live, then you'd have an opposite conclusion. Reply

Chris L. Los Angeles July 20, 2013

So you suggest using medicine from an innocent animal that will have to be killed rather than from a person who is already dead. That's cruel. Wake up; let's live and let live! Reply

Cynthia Guelph July 18, 2013

My appologies, I should have been more explicit in my reference to wheat. I was refering to all wheat, ie.: all grains from a to z except grains like amaranth buckwheat corn millet quinoa sorghum, rice, teff, ingredients like hydrolysed vegetable protein, wheat starch, modified food starch, gluten, bran wheat germ, flavoured coffees, some herbal teas, read ingredients, malt, dextrimaltose, maltodextrin, emulsifiers, stabilizers most energy, protein, meal replacement or supplements, sauces, salad dressings, marinades, miso, etc. The list goes on. We have been bombarded with wheat into our everyday life that we don't even realize it until we take a very close look at what we are consuming, including putting on our bodies in the way of cosmetics, because even some cosmetic, lotions, etc are made with wheat which our bodies ingest through the pores.

Not trying to be oversimplified but as our G-d teaches we must be alert to our being and holiness in relation to him in order to be Tzaddik. Reply

Anonymous Camarillo, CA, USA via chabadcamarillo.com July 17, 2013

I have gone 3 days without eating wheat because it was Passover and I did not have Matzah (or had finished a box and did not want to open another because I was saving it for the next year).

I do not remember seeing my body going "through withdrawal". Reply

Cynthia Guelph July 17, 2013

I am learning another culprit to rise blood sugar and insulin dependency is wheat products. Because the wheat we are eating has been genetically altered it does more harm than benefits our health. Wheat actually acts as an opiate, try giving it up for 3 days and watch your body go through withdrawal. Reply

Alexis B. Vancouver, BC Canada April 24, 2013

I've been a diabetic since I was five, and Baruch Hashem Insulin has been available to me for 25 years w/o the use of any biological . I have never ever heard anyone ever, Rabbi, Doctor, anyone call insulin cannibalism. I was lucky that I never had to use 'animal insulin' since the engineered kind has always been available. I'll never forget in High School Science class putting some insulin on a slide expecting to see biology swimming and seeing nothing since it is not a biological living thing like donated blood. It's completely 100% engineered. Understand that HumaLIN insulin isn't HUMAN insulin and no one should ever harm themselves by not taking it on the worry of being a cannibal. It'd be like a type 1 diabetic not eating on a fast making themselves ill. You always protect health when you can. Insulin is one of the biggest blessings I have. If I'd been born 57 years earlier I'd have been dead at 5. I thank Hashem daily for giving this body to me now when I have a chance to live. Reply

David Ben-Ariel Toledo, Ohio June 29, 2009

Doesn't Torah say not to even touch unclean things? So how can touching a pigskin football be "kosher"? Reply

Stephen Weinstein Camarillo, CA via chabadcamarillo.com February 18, 2009

Using substances obtained from a living human is not necessarily cannibalism or unholy. Feeding human breastmilk to a baby is not prohibited. Reply

Irena McClain February 18, 2009

The amino acid sequence of the human insulin is used in engineering the human insulin. It is not derived from pancreatic tissue. There are many excellent websites online that describe the process used to create these and other genetically engineered human hormones.

Those with concerns about whether these products are kosher should consult with their rabbi and prescribing physician. Reply

Tim Nichols February 17, 2009

If, as Irena McClain states, no tissue derived from a human pancreas is used in producing "Human Insulin," why is it considered a genetic clone of this substance? Why is it called "Human Insulin?" I don't believe her. There must be a HUMAN origin, rendering all such substances not just unholy, but actually cannibalism. I refuse to use this stuff. I prefer to die sooner than to die later as a cannibal! Reply

Levi Silman Cape Town, SA June 2, 2008

Wearing leather shoes is forbidden on Yom Kippur and the 9th of Av. However, leather clothing, e.g., a kippa, belt or jacket is permitted. Reply

Irena McClain, Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi May 29, 2008

In reply to the person asking about insulin injections, human insulin is genetically engineered, not obtained from human cadavers. Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk are two companies that have used special techniques to create human insulin and insulin analogues but neither company uses pancreatic cells from human cadavers. There are other injectables to control blood glucose that are not insulin (for example, Byetta and Symlin) but again, these are genetically engineered and not obtained from cadavers. I hope that you can pass on the information to the person that asked about using porcine insulin instead of human insulin.
Thank you Reply