About Kosher Kosher Laws Kosher Supervision

Reading the Label

Why The Ingredient List is Not Enough

Label-scanning becomes a habit for the kosher-conscious as well as for the health-conscious consumer. Looking for the hechsher and for the statement of whether a product is dairy, meat or pareve, or for questionable ingredients listed on the label, are necessary procedures. But the ingredient listing alone, without kosher certification, cannot be used to determine whether the product is kosher. Some factors which could cause a seemingly innocent product to be non-kosher are:

  • A food may be processed in a factory where non-kosher products are also prepared and the same machinery is used for both. The food produced in such a factory is non-kosher, unless a reliable mashgiach (kosher overseer) supervises the koshering of this equipment.
  • Many additives used to enhance the flavor, texture and color of food are not kosher. Their names are often technical or vague (e.g. “natural flavors”), with the result that we do not know exactly what they are. All additives must also be processed on kosher equipment for the product to be kosher. (For further discussion of additives, see below.)
  • Only “ingredients” must appear on the label. Processing agents, release agents, and other substances, often of animal origin, are technically not considered “ingredients” and usually are not listed. For example, oils and fats used to coat the pans for baked goods are not listed as ingredients and are often not kosher.
  • Oils or shortening must be certified kosher and pareve. According to government standards, an ingredient may be listed as vegetable oil or shortening even when containing a small percentage of animal fat.
  • The ingredients or a product may have been slightly altered, yet the manufacturer is allowed to continue using the same labels until new ones are printed.
  • Manufacturers of certain products, such as ice cream, are not required to list ingredients at all, and therefore may list them selectively.

SKS Rabbis at Work

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