Yogurt is a highly nutritious food that is tasty, easy to obtain and transport. However, this cup of yogurt is not a simple product. Manufacturers adjust the ingredients to make a creamy product and to control the calorie content.
There has been a recent alert on Kashrut.com regarding the withdrawal of certification by the OU on some yogurt products because of the reformulation of the products to include gelatin. Gelatin serves a number of useful functions in a yogurt product. It forms a creamier product and keeps the fruit suspended in the yogurt. It also serves as a bulking agent, reducing the calorie content, by replacing the yogurt with water. Non-fat yogurt has 130 calories per 8 oz. without any sweeteners. To get 100-calorie yogurt, less yogurt is used.
Unfortunately there are a number of kashrus issues in the use of gelatin. Gelatin is by definition an animal product. The gelatin used in current yogurt products is produced from pork or non-kosher slaughtered beef . Since there are rabbis who give kosher certification to these gelatin and the products produced from them, manufacturers call this gelatin “kosher” gelatin and put a “K” on the products. The major certifying agencies do not consider this gelatin to be kosher.
Another set of controversial ingredients is natural coloring. It is advantageous for manufacturers to use natural coloring to avoid listing artificial colors on the label. Two natural colors with kashrus concerns are carmine and grape. Carmine is derived from the insect coccus cacti. Wine and grape products require special handling procedures. Grape derived colors when available are more expensive. Other natural colors require kosher certification because of the processing necessary to produce these products.
Other kashrus concerns with yogurts include natural flavorings and processing conditions. Natural flavorings can come from both kosher and non-kosher sources. Food processed on equipment where non-kosher products were processed may also be not-kosher due to processing conditions.