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While it is well known that it is forbidden to eat non-kosher foods, it is not as well known that it is also often forbidden to engage in business dealings involving them.1 According to some authorities the prohibition on conducting business with non-kosher foods, referred to as issur sechora, is forbidden by Torah law,2 while according to others it is a rabbinical enactment.3

One should not confuse issur sechora with issur hana’a. The prohibition of issur hana’a is a separate, more stringent injunction against deriving any benefit from certain types of foods, such as mixtures of milk and meat.4 For example, most dog food contains mixtures of milk and meat, and serving such food to one’s pets would be considered to be deriving benefit from the food.5 There is no prohibition, however, against serving most other non-kosher foods to one’s pets.6

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The ban on doing business with non-kosher foods was instituted as a precautionary measure to help ensure that one does not come to accidentally eat them.7 It is permitted, however, to do business involving foods that are only non-kosher due to rabbinic decree.8 In most cases, it is also permitted to do business concerning non-kosher foods that are manufactured specifically for animal consumption.9 So too, with the exception of pigs, one is permitted to engage in trade with live non-kosher animals that are likely to be used for purposes other than food, such as for farming, breeding and racing.10

Indirect involvement with non-kosher foods is often permitted as well. It is thus permitted to serve as a broker, negotiator, or other form of intermediary in the sale of non-kosher food products.11 Similarly, it is permitted to hold stocks in non-kosher food companies, though one should not serve in a decision-making capacity in such companies.12 One is permitted to work in a store that sells non-kosher food products, even if one will be required to handle them.13 One should not operate vending machines that dispense explicitly non-kosher foods.14

It is permitted to sell non-kosher food products that were unintentionally acquired. For example, a professional fisherman who unintentionally caught non-kosher fish along with the kosher ones is permitted to sell the non-kosher fish.15 So too, a shochet who discovers in the course of his bedika that the animal he slaughtered is not kosher is permitted to sell the carcass to a non-Jew.16 One who received a non-kosher gift is permitted to sell it or pass it on to a non-Jew.17

It is also permitted to do business with non-kosher products when one is faced with no choice but to include them along with the sale of kosher products.18 One may accept non-kosher food as payment for an outstanding debt and then sell the item.19 There is no restriction on doing business involving non-kosher foods that are repulsive or disgusting to eat.20

One is permitted to provide non-kosher food for one’s non-Jewish workers.21 Under normal circumstances, however, one should not purchase non-kosher foods to give as gifts to one’s non-Jewish friends.22 Nevertheless, as can be inferred from what has been mentioned above, it is permitted to purchase and give non-kosher foods to one’s non-Jewish friends if they are only forbidden according to rabbinic law. Therefore, giving gifts such as non-kosher wine or chocolates poses no halachic problems. Even when it is permitted to purchase non-kosher food for business or gift purposes, one should never do so publicly, lest it arouse suspicion and appear to onlookers that one is purchasing the food items for oneself.23 One who is asked to contribute funds as part of a group for the purpose of purchasing a non-kosher gift is permitted to do so.24

 

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  1. Yerushalmi Shevi’it 7:1; Shevi’it 7:3; Tosafot, Bava Kama 82, s.v. “Lo yigadel”; Rambam, Hilchot Ma’achalot Assurot 8:16; YD 117:1; Sma, CM 409:4.
  2. Tosafot, Pesachim 23a; Rosh, Bava Kama 79b; Pri Chadash, YD 117; Chatam Sofer, YD 104–106, 108; Yabia Omer 8:13.
  3. Taz, YD 117:1; Chavot Yair 143; Chatam Sofer, YD 108.
  4. YD 87:1.
  5. OC 448:6; Taz, YD 94:6; Chatam Sofer 92; Badei HaShulchan 87:25. But see Dagul M’revava, YD 87:1, and Rambam, Keritut 3:4, for an alternative view.
  6. Mishneh Halachot 4:104; Igrot Moshe, YD 2:37; Shevet Halevi 6:114.
  7. Teshuvot HaRashba 3:223; Taz, YD 117:1.
  8. YD 117:1.
  9. Igrot Moshe, YD 2:37.
  10. Shach, YD 117:1; Aruch HaShulchan, YD 117:3, 4.
  11. Aruch HaShulchan, YD 117:28; Melamed L’hoil 2:39; Beit Avi 3:103.
  12. Igrot Moshe, EH 1:7.
  13. Yabia Omer, YD 4:6, 8:13; Bach HaChadashot 15; Beit Avi 3:104; Levushei Mordechai 4:215, Chavalim Bane’emim 2:46. But see Avnei Nezer 1:105 for a dissenting view.
  14. Be’er Moshe 6:84; Rivevot Ephraim 3:252.
  15. YD 117:1; Knesset HaGedola, YD 117:5.
  16. Rema, YD 117:1; Ne’ot Desheh 25; Beit Yisrael (Horovitz), YD 25; Da’at Torah, YD 117.
  17. Chiddushei Rabbi Akiva Eiger, YD 117, s.v. “V’im.”
  18. Aruch HaShulchan, YD 117:27; Zekan Aharon 2:45.
  19. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 64:3.
  20. Darkei Teshuva, YD 117:11.
  21. Shach, YD 117:3; Aruch HaShulchan, YD 117:19; She’eilat Yitzchak 2:115; Teshuvot V’hanhagot 2:394.
  22. See Shach, YD 117:3.
  23. Teshuvot V’hanhagot 2:394.
  24. Aruch HaShulchan, YD 117:23.
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Rabbi Ari Enkin, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh, is a researcher and writer of contemporary halachic issues. He teaches halacha, including semicha, one-on-one to people all over the world, online. He is also the author of the “Dalet Amot of Halacha” series (9 volumes), the rabbinic director of United with Israel, and a rebbe at a number of yeshivot and seminaries. Questions and feedback are welcomed: rabbiari@hotmail.com.