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I attended a fantastic lecture on kashrus and dairy products by Rabbi Zushe Yosef Blech, shlita, who was asked an interesting question: Can you eat Oreo cookies after a fleishig meal? It was pointed out that although the kashrus symbol indicates that the product is kosher but dairy, another part of the label that must list whether there are any ingredients for which many people suffer dangerous allergies (E.g. nuts or milk), as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, does not list dairy items at all. Rabbi Blech made the amusing comment that "Not only can you eat Oreos after a fleishig meal, it is a mitzvah to do so." He explained that the manufacturer is more concerned about getting sued by consumers who have unwittingly eaten an allergen than the rabbis certifying their product. He says that the O-U these days puts a "d" on any product where the line has been used for dairy products (and not kashered). Is this an opinion by most poskim, or is Rabbi Blech out on a limb?

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related? judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/143/… –  Danno Aug 7 '13 at 17:58
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Call the OU. That's the best way to answer this question. –  Hacham Gabriel Aug 7 '13 at 18:01
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Dairy equipment likely. Or just a lazy company that doesn't want to redo the package for a new hechsher –  Double AA Aug 7 '13 at 18:10
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@DoubleAA Oreos actually used to be labeled DE until the OU got rid of that designation. –  Daniel Aug 7 '13 at 18:30
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IANAL but I don't think the ADA requires such labeling. –  msh210 Aug 7 '13 at 22:17
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up vote 11 down vote accepted

Rabbi Bleich is very well-respected in the kashrus industry, and he has a tremendous amount of practical industry know-how. I'm not sure how anything he said here would be "out on a limb."

An "OU-D" can mean any of the following:

  • Product is halachically dairy.
  • Product was made on dairy equipment. (I.e. don't eat it with meat, but you could eat it afterwards.)
  • Product is halachically pareve, but the "D" is there to warn those with allergies that there may be traces of dairy.
  • Product is halachically pareve, but the company figured to just put the "D" on there in case they felt like reformulating to dairy ingredients in the future, or switching the equipment to dairy.

You can call the OU and ask them about a given OU-D product, "is this halachically dairy or made on dairy equipment?"

Personally I wouldn't trust the allergen label alone as proof of pareveness, but it would probably mean it's worth trying to call the OU. (Please don't bother the OU by calling to ask whether Smith's Country Vanilla Yogurt is really dairy.) If Rabbi Bleich commented about Oreos, that's because he knows exactly what goes on in their factory.

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I sent an email to the OU (kosherq@ou.org) about this issue and received the following response:

No, one cannot assume that these products are DE, as some companies are not concerned about allergen and will not write a dairy warning. They may still contain actual dairy. [emphasis mine]

If a product lists dairy ingredients on the ingredient panel, it is obviously dairy. Some common dairy ingredients are Milk, Yogurt, Cheese, Cream, Butter, Whey, Lactose, Casein, and Caseinate. However, a product may contain a dairy ingredient that is not listed on the ingredient panel such as those present in the product’s unspecified ingredient ‘flavors’. Due to these concerns it is not entirely possible to determine the dairy status of a product based solely on the listed ingredients.

I also asked about Oreos specifically, and was told that:

At the present time [late 2012], most varieties of Oreo Cookies contain dairy ingredients, with two notable exceptions. Original Oreo Sandwich Cookie and Oreo Double Stuf Sandwich Cookie do not contain dairy ingredients, though they are manufactured on dairy equipment.

Please note that it is possible that the manufacturer will reformulate this product and add a true dairy ingredient. You will not be able to know this, since the OUD kosher symbol will remain the same. We recommend that you call our office every 3 months to reconfirm the DE status of this product.

I highly doubt very many people contact the OU every 3 months to ask about Oreos!

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