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I'm not sure when this practice started, but I noticed that many/most/all Kosher Certifications indicate whether a product is dairy or not. Does a lack of such a marking indicate that the product is truly pareve?

In other words, if I have a product in my hand that has no dairy indication, may I safely eat it with meat, without having to refer to the ingredients panel?

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Milk (normal, USDA-certified cow's milk in the States) certified by the cRc has a dairy designation near the cRc's certification mark, which is kinda funny (who'd think it's not dairy?), but I suppose lo p'lug is a good rule for things like this. –  msh210 Oct 27 '11 at 20:54
    
@msh210 especially if the answer to my question is "yes"! –  yydl Oct 27 '11 at 20:58
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4 Answers 4

I asked this question of the OU when I was beginning to keep kosher -- if it just had an "OU" and not a "D" could I assume it was parve? Their answer was yes. They of course didn't speak for anybody else, but I got the impression that this was normative then and, since then, I haven't seen a case that didn't fit (other than printing errors!). So "D" is dairy, "M" is meat, "P" might be "Pesach" (I saw that on a meat package once and was confused), but the absence of any such designation means parve with the hechshers I've seen (which is mainly the major ones, not the small local ones).

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I haven't seen "M" alone for meat, but I have seen the whole word "MEAT" as well as the word "GLATT" on meat products. I don't remember which organizations used which designation. –  WAF Nov 27 '11 at 14:03
    
@WAF, I've seen both of those too and also just an "M" but now I can't remember where I saw which. I haven't seen "M" alone recently. –  Monica Cellio Nov 27 '11 at 17:34
    
I once saw a "F". I finally realized it indicated fish, as in the product shouldn't be eaten with meat. –  Double AA Jul 18 '12 at 6:38
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The OU has 4 variations of its heksher. OU-D is for dairy. OU-M (or OU-Meat) is meat. OU-P is passover, and plain OU is parve. A few other hekshers will spell it out when their product is parve, but the general rule is that if the product has a heksher without a special designation, then the product is parve. I've never seen a product where the lack of a special designation meant the product was dairy or meat.

If you see a heksher like the OU without a designation, you don't need to check the ingredients list to determine whether it's really parve. In fact there are lots of reasons why you probably can't tell whether a product is dairy from the ingredients list, so you should trust the heksher.

  1. Ingredients that you've never heard of that happen to be dairy (it would take a long time for you to build up a knowledge base that allowed you to recognize ingredients like caesin as dairy.)
  2. when a product is made with utensils that have previously been used for dairy and not kashered. (Halachically this a bit different from dairy food, but you need to recognize this case as well, and know the appropriate laws about separating parve food cooked on dairy equipment from meat.)
  3. I've heard that manufacturers are allowed to omit ingredients form the list if they appear in insignificant amounts (but I've never tried to find the relevant law to verify this).
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Shouldn't this be a comment on the question or one of the answers? –  Isaac Moses Oct 30 '11 at 15:55
    
You would have to justify why you think any of these considerations would render the product dairy. Does the status of a non-Jewish manufacturer's utensils matter? Do ingredients in insignificant amounts matter? And what ingredients are you thinking of that people never heard of? Milk fat? Powdered milk? These are all pretty standard. –  Curiouser Oct 30 '11 at 16:46
    
@Curiouser, on your last point, how about casein? That's a milk (actually, cheese) byproduct, but your average consumer would probably have no idea what it is. –  Alex Oct 30 '11 at 18:01
    
@IsaacMoses, I took this answer to be a reply to "Does a lack of such a marking indicate that the product is truly pareve?": "yes, because people won't know how to read labels". –  msh210 Oct 30 '11 at 18:50
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I've edited it to make this more clear, and to make it sound less like I'm calling the person who asked this question an idiot. I orignally wrote this as a comment on a different question, and copied it over here without editing it as much as I should have. –  Chanoch Oct 30 '11 at 23:10
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Although most reliable Hechsherim write dairy or Chalavi on a dairy product, it is always a good idea to verify by looking at the ingredients.

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Is it also worth verifying its general kashrut as best as possible by looking at ingredients as well? –  Double AA Jul 18 '12 at 6:39
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The Kosher designation can usually be relied on. If it doesn't say Dairy you can be pretty sure that it isn't dairy. However, mistakes do happen, see (for example) this alert from the OU (Oct 12, 2011):

    Kashruth Advisory: Bean & Body - Canned Coffee Drinks

Brands:
    Bean & Body
Products:
    Canned Coffee Drinks
Issue:
    Some of the cans are labeled with a regular OU, instead of an OU-D. The products are clearly dairy as listed on the ingredient panel. Corrective action is being taken.

It is always a good idea to subscribe to the Kashrut alerts from the different Kashrut organizations, to keep up with any mislabled foods. All the major kashrut organizations have them. You can find them on their respective websites.

Also, if this is the first time you're seeing the item with a Hechsher, it's always a good idea to examine the ingredients to make sure everything is copasetic. If it sounds too good to be true, it may well be.

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