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Tylenol and Motrin

Q: Hi, as I’m sure you have heard infant Tylenol and Motrin have been recalled. I want to buy a generic version but I have heard that there may be kashrus issues. Can you shed any light on this? Do you know which brands are okay and/or which ingredients to look out for?

A: Liquid medicines are considered edible and therefore one must be certain that the ingredients are kosher before consuming them. The most sensitive of ingredients commonly used in these medicines is “glycerin” (also known as “glycerol”), and the kashrus concerns with that ingredient are that it may be produced from non-kosher animal fat, and even if it is made from vegetable oil it may be processed (very hot) on equipment also used for animal fat. Glycerin is edible, sweet tasting, and can comprise as much as 20-30% of a liquid medicine, and therefore non-kosher glycerin poses a serious concern for someone consuming liquid medicine.

Liquid medicines may also contain other kosher-sensitive ingredients, but none of those ingredients are as sensitive as glycerin. Chewable pills rarely contain glycerin, but these may also contain some less-sensitive ingredients.

It so happens that we have been able to verify that the glycerin used in the brand-name Tylenol and Motrin are kosher at this point, but of course, those items have been recalled from the market at this time. We do not have information on other brands and are therefore not able to recommend them at this time for mere pain relief (e.g. teething). In situations where a child requires one of these products for a more serious need (e.g. high fever, infection) a Rabbi may rule that the child is permitted to take the medicine in spite of the questions regarding the source of glycerin. If you have such a situation, we recommend that you be in touch with your local Rabbi who can answer your specific question.