Consumer Questions – Chanukah 5778

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Dear Kosher Spirit,

I’m confused about why certain products are certified “D” or “DE” when I don’t see any dairy ingredients in the product. Why do some pareve products say, “May contain traces of milk.”? Can you please explain?

The OK responds:

  1. Dairy equipment (DE) means that the equipment is also used for dairy with no kosher cleaning protocol between the runs – almost always chalav stam. People who are stringent about Cholov Yisroel keilim should not use DE products. Some DE products bear the dairy symbol, because the manufacturer wants to be able to switch to a dairy ingredient without having to print new labels. Consumers are welcome to call the OK to verify status.
  2. Sometimes the entire plant is certified as dairy (often because the company does not want to stop production for koshering or extra monitoring required for pareve products) and there are no kosher safeguards in place preventing a change to an actual dairy ingredient.
  3. Sometimes the product may contain actual dairy, even though it isn’t written on the label, because the machinery still discharges some dairy product at the beginning of a new run (like some very famous chocolate chips).
  4. Sometimes an ingredient used in the product came from an all dairy facility and therefore makes the end product certified dairy.
  5. A pareve product may say, “May contain traces of milk,” on the label because some people are allergic to dairy on such a severe level that they will have a reaction from airborne particles of dairy being present during production. Airborne particles do not pose any kashrus issue, so this is merely an allergen warning.
  6. In addition, from an allergen perspective the main concern is lactose. If the lactose is removed then ingredient can be called “non-dairy”, although the ingredient is a milk derivative. The common example is non-dairy creamer that has sodium caseinate, which is a milk derived ingredient but without lactose.