Artificial Shrimp May Find Ready Market Among Kashrut Observers

Called Shr!mp, the product is being developed by a firm seeking to curb the environmental damage from shrimp fishing, but some wonder whether it will be certified kosher.

A bucket of shrimp.
Bloomberg

A San Francisco company called New Wave Foods has developed a shrimp substitute that, unlike the real thing, is said to be kosher and also purportedly tastes like the real thing and even has the texture of shrimp, Britain's Daily Mail reported last week.

The product, which is called Shr!mp (with an exclamation mark instead of an "I"), was developed for environmental reasons—to put a halt to the destruction of coastal wetlands from tiger shrimp farming, the Daily Mail noted, but it also may appeal the those who are looking for a product that tastes like shrimp but doesn't run afoul of the Jewish dietary prohibition against eating shellfish. Real fish must have both fins and scales to be considered kosher.

Shr!mp, the seafood substitute, is made by baking red algae with a plant-based protein powder, the Jewish Chronicle of London reported. And the chef at White Fish, a London kosher restaurant told the Daily Mail: ‘If it’s something customers feel comfortable eating, there’s no reason not to serve it, as long as it’s approved as kosher.’

The Jewish Chronicle noted that there are some Jewish religious authorities who said the issue is not entirely clear. The newspaper cited the opinion of London-area Rabbi Daniel Epstein of the Cockfosters & N. Southgate Synagogue, who said it all depends on whether or not the product would violate "marit ayin," the Jewish religious legal concept that prohibits practices that may technically be in keeping with halakha, Jewish religious law, but may give the wrong impression.

"If it can be interpreted suspiciously, causing someone to think that a Jewish person was transgressing a law, then we have to be extra careful in how we ensure that the wrong impression will not be inferred. If an imitation prawn was placed on a plate in front of me, I would not eat it. However, if a sealed bag of these same prawns would be placed in front of me with the packaging clearly showing that the product was kosher... that would be an entirely different story," Rabbi Epstein said.

Rabbi Jonathan Romain, of Maidenhead Synagogue in Berkshire, west of London, also raised the matter of mistaken impressions. Speaking to the Daily Mail, he concluded: "So it’s probably better not to eat fake shrimp. We’ve survived 3,000 years without it and I’m sure that we can continue to get by."