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Autumn 2005

Mrs. Margie Pensak

According to IMS Health, global pharmaceutical sales grew 7% to $550 billion in 2004. It is no wonder that the interest in kosher certification and approval for these products has also skyrocketed, as evident from the numerous calls received by Star-K’s Kashrus Hotline regarding their kosher status.

Perhaps, this is partially due to the USDA’s realization that its decade-old Food Guide Pyramid is now passé. Nutritional experts at Harvard School of Public Health have constructed their own alternative pyramid, with recommendations reflective of the latest research that has redefined the healthy American diet and lifestyle. With daily exercise and weight control at the base, off to the side of the “Healthy Eating Pyramid” is an icon of a pill bottle with a caption that reads: “Multiple Vitamins for Most”. This recommendation of a daily multi-vitamin/multi-mineral supplement as a “nutritional backup” is in sync with the American Medical Association’s advice for all adults to take a daily dose of multi-vitamins. (See JAMA 2002; 287:3127-3129.)

“All of us grew up believing that if we ate a reasonable diet, that would take care of our vitamin needs,” says Harvard University’s Dr. Robert Fletcher. That may be good enough to ward off such vitamin-deficiency disorders as scurvy, beriberi and pellagra, but the latest evidence, he notes, is that supplementing our diets with multi-vitamins may be able to prevent the usual diseases we deal with every day - heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis and birth defects.

However, vitamins often contain non-kosher ingredients, such as gelatin, that may not be listed on the label. As a result, the kosher consumer’s rabbinic advisor would need to question if vitamins were prescribed by a health care professional for vitamin deficiencies, or if they were self-prescribed for supplemental or preventative purposes. [See Rabbi Heber’s Kashrus Kurrents archival article: “A Kashrus Guide to Medication, Vitamins, and Nutritional Supplements”, 25.2 (2005)].

Star-K’s newest kosher certified multi-vitamin, Shaklee’s Vita-Lea, is one additional solution to this problematic situation. Until recently, it contained a trace amount of gelatin and was unable to be certified. Star-K worked together with Shaklee to remove the gelatin from its formulation, so it could become kosher certified.

According to Dr. Stephen Chaney, a Master Coordinator with Shaklee, Vita-Lea is the highest quality, best balanced and most complete kosher certified supplement on the market, having passed over 349 quality controlled tests for purity and bioavailability. Available with or without iron, Shaklee says it provides 23 essential nutrients and has twice the antioxidants, calcium, magnesium, and beta carotene, three times the selenium and vitamin K, six times the boron, and ten times the biotin, of other leading multi-vitamins.

“Of all the companies I work with I receive more calls about Shaklee than any other company,” says Star-K Kashrus Administrator and pharmaceutical expert Rabbi Dovid Heber. “There is obviously a great interest in this company and certification of this multi-vitamin has been very well received. A lot of consumers have been waiting for this product.”

Vita-Lea cannot be found on your pharmacy shelf, nor can the other Shaklee nutritional and home care products that Star-K has been certifying for over eleven years. Shaklee products are only sold by the more than 700,000 distributors found in your local yellow pages - throughout the United States (even Alaska and Wyoming!), Canada, Mexico, Japan, and Malaysia. Shaklee products are certified kosher pareve when bearing the Star-K symbol, and kosher dairy when bearing the Star-D symbol.

Sarah Stauber is a Master Coordinator within the Shaklee multilevel marketing company. The 17-year veteran Shaklee distributor, a member of the Satmar community in Brooklyn, is one of the most successful distributors in the United States. She has established sales territories in New York, New Jersey, and South Florida. (See Wall Street Journal, 11/19/2001, Page B1, “Closed-Circle Commerce, Networks of Hasidic Women, Other Tightly Knit Groups Help Shaklee Sell Products” by Heidi J. Shrager). What impact does she foresee the new Star-K logo having on her Vita-Lea sales?

“Vita-Lea is a bread-and-butter item, and not to have it kosher was a tremendous obstacle in our business,” feels Ms. Stauber. “With gratitude to Hashem, and with appreciation to His shluchim at Star-K, we can proudly announce that the world’s best multi-vitamin now also has the best kosher certification. From my years at Shaklee I have learned that Torah-true Jews - whether Litvish, Chasidish, or Yeshivish - all trust Star-K. We already see that we just can’t keep enough inventory of the Vita-Lea.”

Anjana Srivastava, Shaklee’s Senior Director of Marketing, Nutrition, couldn’t agree more. “We’re very pleased that our flagship multi, Vita-Lea, is now kosher-certified which extends the benefits of this product to the kosher community,” says Ms. Srivastava. “Shaklee is committed to providing more kosher products and is working closely with Star-K to make this come to fruition.”

Star-K annually publishes a list of companies with kosher certified supplements, health and pharmaceutical products. Click here for the most recent list.

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