Whether you are a kosher food manufacturer or a kosher consumer, a basic understanding of kosher food labels is necessary to ensure the products you handle at work or home abide by kosher dietary laws. Certifying agencies use distinctive symbols to label kosher-certified foods. However, some additional universal designators help consumers immediately identify ingredients in your products.
Understanding Kosher Symbols
A D next to a Kosher symbol signifies a dairy product. Kosher manufacturers know that dairy and meat can never be mixed. Without this clear dairy identification, several agencies may consider your product’s composition unclear. The possibility remains that a consumer could mistake this product for pareve (neutral food) and use it with a meat product -- creating a severe situation in a Kosher consumer’s home.
You may also come into contact with the symbol DE. Many agencies use this symbol to designate a non-dairy product made on dairy equipment. Kosher consumers and agencies consider these products to be less dairy than those labeled with a lone D.
A printed M lets your consumer know the kosher product in question includes meat. As meat and dairy cannot mix under Kosher dietary law, kosher meat products must be dairy-free.
A printed F next to your kosher symbol indicates a fish product or a product containing fish ingredients. According to kosher dietary law, products marked with this symbol may be eaten and cooked together with dairy foods but NOT with meat products. Thus, this symbol is particularly important for foods in which the fish ingredient is not obvious.
A P next to a Kosher symbol signifies Passover certification. Kosher for Passover foods are subject to a stringent set of manufacturing rules for the eight-day holiday. These items cannot be used for the rest of the year. A common mistake among manufacturers is the belief that the P symbol signifies pareve. Manufacturers may instead choose to include the word pareve next to their Kosher symbol. Others may choose to make no addition, as many agencies consider a Kosher symbol with no indication of dairy or Passover to mean pareve.
Your letter of certification -- your legal authorization to use a Kosher trademark -- details the correct Kosher symbols to use when labeling products. Your certifying agency will advise you on these inclusions and exactly where to place them.
Mislabeling Kosher Foods
Sometimes, kosher products can be mislabeled. In the case of kosher foods, this has dire consequences for your consumers. The most significant of these circumstances is putting a Kosher symbol on a non-kosher item. Kosher producers should check with their certifying agency to ensure mislabeling does not occur if:
Your facility decides to switch from one certifying agency to another. In this case, you may no longer be authorized to use the older packaging that includes the previous agency’s symbols.
Your production moves to a new facility. In this case, your certifying agency will need to inspect your new facility rendering your current labels unauthorized.
Recognizing the meaning behind kosher symbols helps your site best serve consumers and keep them coming back for more. For more information on kosher production guidelines and labeling, consider Zosi’s library of kosher training developed in partnership with OU Kosher.