Who certifies that food items are kosher?
When I read labels I see on most products, the letter "K" in different variations-some in a triangle, some in a circle, some in a star. What do they mean and what does the word pareve mean that is quite often near the letter "K"? Does pareve mean it is vegan?
The letter "K" indicates that the food is kosher and complies with Jewish dietary laws and has been processed under the direction of a rabbi. The Hebrew word "kosher" means permitted according to Torah Law.
When you see this letter it means that the product does not contain anything from an animal or pork origin according to the Islamic Dietary Law. The different hechshers, or certification symbols of the "K" symbol include: K with a circle around it - certified kosher by the Organization Kashrus Laboratories (since 1935).
The triangle with a K inside-certified kosher by a consortium of Orthodox Jewish rabbis. A star with a K inside-certified kosher by the Baltimore based Star-K Kosher Certification Agency, top tier of strictness and quality and the only agency to certify technology. A K by itself is not certified kosher, although the manufacturer claims it is kosher.
A somewhat backward K with a K in between - is certified kosher by KOF-K Kosher Supervision, the cutting edge kosher supervision, and the foremost certification agency in the United States. Kosher foods are divided into three categories: meat, dairy and pareve.
Kosher meat must come from an animal that chews its cud and has split hooves. (i.e. cows, sheep, goats are kosher; rabbits, kangaroos and fox are not). All foods derived from or containing milk are classified dairy (i.e. milk, butter, yogurt and all cheese) and must come from a kosher animal.
Pareve are foods that are neither meat nor diary. Common pareve foods are eggs (unless they contain a blood spot - then they are not kosher), fish, fruit, vegetables, grains, unprocessed juices, pasta, soft drinks, coffee and tea.
When you see a product that has pareve listed on its package, it does not mean that the food is vegan. Vegans do eat or use animal products or byproducts, such as eggs, dairy products, honey, leather, fur, silk, wool, cosmetics or soaps, derived from animal products according to the Vegetarian Resource Group.
Thought for the week: "Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there," Will Rogers.
Phylis B. Canion is a doctor of naturopathic medicine and is a certified nutritional consultant; email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. This column is for nutritional information only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure.