Date: Thu, 10 Apr 1997 11:42:36 -0400
Sender: Milk/Casein/Lactose-free list
From: Robyn Kozierok
Subject: Parve FAQ
Sorry to take so long to get this out. There are a few details I am still checking into, but I wanted to get this out now while the Passover food is out because there's lots of cool Parve stuff available now, and because the confusion between the passover and pareve markings can be troublesome.
One major point is that it is possible that foods made with synthetic casein (not from any animal source, but synthesized in a lab) could be marked parve, but still cause a serious reaction in a casein-allergic individual. I am trying to find out if (a) this ever really happens, and (b) which kashrut organizations would treat this as parve. But for now check all labels carefully even if the product is labelled parve just in case there is synthetic casein in it (which should be listed as such on the label). If anyone has further info or sources on this issue, I'd greatly appreciate it.
NO-MILK Parve/Pareve FAQ
Disclaimer: This represents my understanding of kashrut laws as they relate to milk allergies. I am neither a doctor nor a rabbi; please do not use this document to replace competent medical or halachic advice on these issues.
People who need (or wish) to avoid consuming milk can benefit from the fact that Jewish dietary laws impose restrictions on the consumption of milk products along with meat products.
To vastly oversimplify, Jewish law forbids eating certain classes of animal (including, for example, pork and shellfish), and forbids eating meat or poultry products with milk or milk products.
Kosher foods are thus divided into 3 categories:
Meat -- includes beef, lamb, chicken, etc.
Milk -- includes milk, milk products, milk components (casein, whey, lactose)
Parve (or Pareve) -- fruits, vegetables, grains, fish, eggs
Foods classified as parve contain no milk or meat products, and can be eaten with either milk or meat.
When purchasing food, Jews need to know if a food is strictly kosher, and if so, what is its classification (milk, meat or parve). Toward this end, the various organizations of Rabbis who inspect food manufacturing plants have registered proprietary trademarks (little graphic icons) that they license to food manufacturers to be printed on the labels of the packages. These trademarks are also called hechshers, pronounced "heck-sures". The hechshers are trademarked so that the Rabbinic boards who supervise the food can control which product labels they may be printed upon. Inspections must be done regularly in order for a company to retain the right to print the hechsher on their product.
PLEASE NOTE that the letter 'K' alone is not (cannot be) trademarked and anyone who wants may print it on their label without Rabbinic supervision. It is NOT a reliable hechsher.
The three largest hechshers in the United States are O-U (a U in a circle), O-K (a K in a circle) and Kaf-K (a K inside a Hebrew letter Kaf, which looks a bit like a backward C). In Canada there is COR inside an oval, and MK in a circle. There are other reliable hechshers with more local jurisdictions.
Images of these and several other reliable hechshers may be found at the following URL: http://www.kashrus.org/kosher/symbol.html
Next to the hechsher symbol there may be an indicator of the product's classification:
Symbol Means Dairy Status
D Dairy Dairy (or possibly dairy-contaminated)
D.E. Dairy Equipment Possibly dairy-contaminated
Parve Parve 100% dairy-free
Pareve Parve 100% dairy-free
MEAT Meat 100% dairy-free
FISH Fish unknown: check for other symbols
P Passover (NOT Parve!) unknown: check for other symbols
Note that the letter P alone stands for Passover, never Parve! During Passover there are additional restrictions on the use of grains, legumes and leavening agents, but the main categorization into milk, meat and parve remains. An item that is Kosher for Passover will be labelled like any non-Passover item to indicate its milk/meat/parve status).
Often food produced on dairy equipment is just labelled D for dairy, so if you can't find any dairy in the ingredients, it may be because of dairy- contaiminated equipment. Anything labelled Parve or Meat is guaranteed to be dairy-free. Sometimes fish is labelled explicitly as well due to a prohibition against serving fish and meat on the same plate. This has no bearing on the item's dairy content or lack thereof.
The O-U hechsher tends to leave off the indicator for Parve unless it is an item which one would not expect to be parve (like a parve coffee creamer). They explicitly label dairy and meat except in obvious cases (milk or chicken, for example). Usually an O-U alone indicates a Parve item. The other hechshers I am familiar with label Parve explicitly all the time.
Parve food may contain no detectable amounts of either meat or milk. This means zero. There are other cases in kosher law where an impurity of one part in sixty is permitted. This one-part-in-sixty rule does NOT apply to the classification "Parve". I mention this because once in a while one might hear from somebody who erroneously claims that parve food is allowed to contain very small amounts of milk.
Parve food may not contain any food derived from milk or meat either. Thus casein, whey, lactose, and any other milk derivative renders a food dairy.
Furthermore, plates, silverware, cooking pots, serving spoons, carving knives, table tops and so on are also divided into one of the above three categories. If a parve utensil touches either milk or meat then it is no longer parve but either milk or meat. There are special ways of converting utensils or things that are either milk or meat back into the parve category. The conversion processed always starts with a very thorough cleaning. Depending upon the situation, burning the object with a blowtorch may be required for the conversion to parve. Naturally, all of these rules apply just as stringently to commercial food preparation equipment as to home utensils. Thus even food with no dairy ingredients produced on equipment which has been used for dairy products and not extrememly stringently cleaned in between cannot be labelled parve. It will either be labelled dairy or dairy equipment.
http://www.kashrut.com has Consumer Kashrut Alerts that point out when Kosher items have been mislabelled. This may be very useful to people here who rely on Parve labelling to find non-dairy foods for allergy purposes. They have email notifications too!
The web site kashrus.org
[archive.org] has lots of useful information on the Kosher regulations, labelling, etc.
For more information on basic Kosher laws look at: kashrus.org/kosher/kashrut.html
An article at that site discussing using Kosher labels for avoiding allergens is found at URL: kashrus.org/kosher/food.html
[archive.org] is a useful listing of some food additives and what they are.