Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Deciphering the Pizza Box

Stephen, a New York lawyer and the Unofficial Expert on All Things Kosher right here on The Nervous Vegan, sent me a long and detailed explanation of the notations on the Tofutti Pan Crust Pizza Pizzaz box that fascinate me so. I'll just post the whole thing below the picture I sent him, with only a speck of editing.

In a previous post, Stephen explained that pareve means the product was not even exposed to a trace of dairy or meat.

This goes way beyond reading ingredients labels and trying to find out if the lecithin or mono- and diglicerides are from vegetable sources. The Eternal is even called into the matter. How many vegans and vegetarians go that far? Very worth understanding to me. Now here's the closeup:

"The symbol in the top left corner is called a heckscher: It's the product's kosher certification. This one shows that it is certified by Kof-K, shown by the hebrew letter kof with a K in the middle. Kof-K is one of the larger kashrut (kosher) certification organizations in the country. My guess is that it's the second biggest, I believe O-U is larger.

"The terms underneath, B"H and the Hebrew letters next to it, bet-samech"-daled, essentially mean the same thing. They are shorthand for the hebrew term Be'ezrat Hashem, which means, "With help from Gd." The reason an extra letter is inserted in the Hebrew is because you do not even write the letter of the first name of Gd in Hebrew on a product that is likely to be thrown out, so as to not descerate G-d's name.

"The final term, Pas Yisroel, is a shorthand term to mean that not only is is the product pareve (pas is shorthand, actually Yiddish, for a product that is prepared pareve), but also supervised and controlled by a Jew in the process (Yisroel). The term is used to connote that it was knowingly manufactured by someone familiar with kashrut laws, thereby creating even greater certainty that the product is kosher and pareve, so that it could be used with meat or dairy -- but obviously not together.

"There are some Jews who will take on the extra stringency, although it is not a kosher requirement by any standard authority, that they will only eat kosher products that are prepared in this way: Pas Yisroel for pareve, or Chalav Yisroel for dairy. With kosher meat there is by definition an obligation for a Jew to be heavily involved in the process because of the heavily regulated nature of kosher meat and the requirements applicable for meat to be kosher.

"Most Jews who keep kosher do not take on Pas Yisroel or Chalav Yisroel, but Tofutti is telling such consumers that the product is manufactured and supervised by religious Jews, so those that do can feel comfortable eating it."

Hm. I got into that! Good stuff!

Stephen said he would write about his perspective on some intersection points for kosher and vegetarian diets, and I'm very much looking forward to what he has to offer. May many engaging posts follow in the near future. If only I could make him the official expert somehow...

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