Kosher Explained

January 25, 2017

Here's your 101 on what that Kosher symbol means.

What does that Kosher symbol mean on the product stocked in your store? Well, kosher or kashrut is a set of Jewish dietary laws, regarding which animals can be eaten, what foods can be combined and more. General exclusions are pork and shellfish. You may find that there is a growing perception, among consumers, that kosher is cleaner, and safer, and thus overall better, here are the basics so you can be an informed source for shoppers.

According to kosher law, animals must be humanely slaughtered by specially trained butchers, and raised with certain specifications. Dairy and animal foods are never eaten together. Kosher foods also have higher standards for production sanitation.

So, how are foods koshered? Contrary to popular misconception, rabbis or other religious officials do not "bless" food to make it kosher. Food can be kosher without a rabbi or priest ever becoming involved with it, for example the vegetables in your garden are kosher. Companies have to go through a series of steps and inspections in order to become kosher certified.

Although the details of kosher are extensive, the laws all derive from a few fairly simple, straightforward rules:

Certain animals may not be eaten at all including shellfish, pork and other non-ruminants. This restriction also includes the flesh, organs, eggs and milk of the forbidden animals. The only types of fish permitted are those that have both fins and scales. Of the animals that may be eaten, the birds and mammals must be slaughtered by humane methods dictated by Jewish Law and carried out by specially trained ritual slaughterers.

Fruits and vegetables are permitted, but must be inspected for bugs (which cannot be eaten). Grapes are an exception; all natural grape derivatives have special kosher considerations. Since wine has sacramental significance in Jewish ritual, the Rabbis enacted laws regarding its acceptability and use. All natural grape products must come from grape juice that has been supervised from start to finish. Only these grape products can be certified and approved kosher.

Meat cannot be eaten with dairy. Fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables and grains can be eaten with either meat or dairy. (According to some, fish may not be eaten with meat).

Keep in mind that kosher dietary laws are observed all year round. There is no such thing as "kosher-style" food. Kosher is not a style of cooking. Chinese food can be kosher if prepared in accordance with Jewish law. Traditional foods like kinishes, bagels, blintzes and, matzah ball soup can all be non-kosher if not prepared in accordance with kosher law. When a restaurant calls itself "kosher-style," it usually means that the restaurant serves these traditional Jewish foods, but that they are probably not kosher.

How do you know if a food item is kosher? Look out for the symbols. Orthodox Union (OU); Kof-K (the Hebrew letter kof, a backward looking letter C with a K inside); Triangle-K, (a triangle with a K inside); Star-K, (five-pointed star with a K inside). Words near the symbol: Pareve (Yiddish), Parve or Parev (Hebrew), indicates food is neither meat nor dairy; M or Glatt is meat; D is dairy; F is fish; P is kosher for Passover, when diets exclude foods with leavening, spelt, barley, rye, oats, wheat, corn, rice, legumes.

For more on Kosher visit Star-K