This issue is complex, but vegans and vegetarians shouldn’t base their purchasing decisions on kosher symbols and markings. Here is what they mean:
- A “K” or “OU” kosher symbol basically means that the food-manufacturing process was overseen by a rabbi who, theoretically, ensured that it met Jewish dietary laws. (There are actually dozens of symbols used by different kosher certifying agencies.)
- There may be additional letters indicating the presence of meat, dairy, or fish. A “K” or “OU” by itself could indicate that the food is pareve, meaning that it doesn’t contain meat or dairy, but it may contain fish, eggs, or honey. For example, kosher gelatin, like that used in kosher gelatin dessert and marshmallows, usually comes from a fish source.
- An additional “M” or “Glatt” symbol means the product contains meat.
- An additional “F” symbol means that fish ingredients are present, but if “fish” is in the name, some products don’t display the “F” symbol. Please note: Some foods that contain small amounts of fish, like Worcestershire sauce, aren’t labeled with an “F” if the fish comprises less than 1/60 of the product.
- An additional “D” or “DE” symbol means that the food either contains dairy or was produced with machinery that handled dairy. For example, a chocolate and peanut candy may be marked “kosher D” or “kosher DE” even if it doesn’t list dairy products in the ingredients, because the dairy-free chocolate was manufactured on machinery that also made milk chocolate.
- The additional “P” or Passover symbol means that the food is suitable for consumption during the Passover holiday, when leavened grain products may not be eaten.
If you have further questions regarding kosher symbols, please consult Jewish organizations or publications.