Meat - Dairy - Pareve: An Overview

One of the fundamentals in Kashrus is the prohibition of combining meat and milk. The commercial ramifications of this concept are numerous. On the most basic level, it means that a meat product may contain no dairy ingredients and vice versa. Of course there are products that contain neither meat nor dairy ingredients. These are called “pareve,” a Hebrew word meaning “neutral.” A “pareve” product may be eaten with either a meat, poultry or dairy meal. From a kosher marketing point of view, products that bear a pareve designation understandably are the most marketable, since they are universally usable in conjunction with any type of meal. Furthermore, vegetarians and lactose intolerant individuals specifically seek out kosher certified pareve products.

The kosher designation of “dairy” refers not only to all milk and cheese products, but includes all foods containing dairy derivatives. This category includes foods such as ice cream, cookies or crackers containing whey or milk powder, or products that contain no dairy ingredients but are heat-processed on equipment that was utilized for the production of products that do contain dairy ingredients.

Many products on the market today contain dairy-based flavors and ingredients, requiring a dairy designation on the packaging. For example, soft drinks, cake mixes, candies, and flavored coffees, to name a few, may contain flavorings with dairy-based derivatives. Creamers labeled as non-dairy, from a kosher perspective, may in fact be dairy if they contain sodium caseinate, another dairy derivative. Starter distillate, often used in foods to enhance mouth feel, actually is distilled from dairy components and therefore is treated as a dairy product.

The requirement to separate meat and dairy products applies not only to food, but also to the utensils used for storing, preparing, and serving these foods. Therefore, completely separate sets of pots, dishes, cutlery, etc., are standard in a kosher kitchen. There is a waiting period after eating meat before eating dairy, six hours in most communities. The waiting period also applies to foods that have been cooked with meat. A similar waiting period applies after eating hard cheese before eating meat. It should be noted that although fish is neither meat nor dairy, fish and meat may not be eaten together. Kosher food produced on machinery previously used for non-kosher food may be rendered non-kosher.

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