Kashrut and Kosher Foods
Kashrut is the division of Jewish law that deals with the foods that a Jew may and may not eat and its proper preparation . Kosher foods are foods that meet Kashrut standards. Under Jewish dietary laws, meat and dairy can never be eaten together so kosher foods are labeled as either fleishig (meat), milchig (dairy) and pareve (neutral). Pareve or neutral foods contain neither milk nor dairy. Many grocery stores have a designated section of kosher foods to accommodate those who keep kosher. In addition, many big food manufacturers have kosher-certified foods and label their products with kosher symbols.
Reading Kosher Labels
Look for the kosher symbol on a product, it’s usually in small type on towards the bottom of the package. In the U.S. the symbol is usually some variation on the letter U or K (View the commonly used kosher symbols in the US). This indicates that the food has been inspected by a kosher certifying agency. If it has a “D” or the word “dairy” next to it, this means that it contains dairy. If the kosher symbol has an “m” or the word “meat” next to it, this product contains meat and if it has “pareve” written next to it, it contains neither milk nor meat. Fish is commonly classified as “neutral” or “pareve” so keep this in mind if your little one has fish/shellfish allergies.
[*For those of you with smartphones, there’s an app that can be helpful to understand kosher labels!]
Kosher Food and Restricted Diets
People who are not necessarily kosher but who are following a restrictive diet, such as vegetarians or vegans, often find the kosher labeling system useful for determining whether or not a food is suitable for their diet.
Kosher Labels and Milk Allergies: A Reliable Tool?
Being familiar with kosher labeling can help save you a lot of time because you’ll be able to quickly identify the kosher symbol with “dairy” written next to it and know this food is off limits. That being said, it’s very important to note that kosher labels may not always take cross-contamination into account so it’s possible that there are traces of milk in a product even though it is not labeled as “dairy” . Therefore, you should never assume that a kosher symbol listing “meat” or “pareve” is 100% free of dairy. With such foods, you should continue to closely read the ingredient list as you normally do and call the manufacturer to make sure the product is safe for your child’s milk allergy.
- Kosher symbols can help you to save time by quickly identifying products which contain dairy rather than having to search through the ingredient list for each product
You should never assume that a kosher product labeled as “meat” or “pareve” is 100% milk-free because it may still contain traces of dairy. Continue to study the ingredient list and check with the manufacturers to make sure this product is safe for your child with milk allergies.
Kosher Foods during Passover
If you see a kosher symbol listing “P” does not mean that the product is “pareve” rather it means that it is “kosher for Passover”. Foods designated as “P” or “kosher for Passover” are often only sold for a limited time during the year corresponding to the Passover holiday, when there are stricter dietary restrictions. Many families find that they are able to find hard-to-find, allergy-friendly products in the stores during this time and stock up while they are available. To learn more, read the “What Does Kosher for Passover Mean for Food Allergies?” article provided by Kids with Food Allergies.