Kosher, Halal, Pareve: Get to Know the Labels

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It’s mid-December, and you’ve decided to throw a holiday party and invited all your friends. You’ve already done your best to accommodate for everyone’s restrictions (Susan is gluten-free and Richard doesn’t eat red meat). Suddenly, you realize you don’t know what religious dietary rules your friends follow. You know there was one friend who eats Kosher, but what about the others? Better do some research on the latest labeling regulations! Luckily, we’ve done that part for you. Read on to learn the basics of Kosher, Halal, and Pareve labeling, so you can get back to planning this party.


There are a few important things to know when following a Kosher diet. For starters, kosher foods must come from a certified body (i.e. a Rabbi). Kosher does not allow the consumption of flesh, organs, eggs, and milk of forbidden animals (hare, camel, and pig), and there is no mixing of meat and dairy. Fruit and vegetables can be eaten but must be inspected for bugs, which are forbidden. Utensils or cookware that has been used with non-kosher hot food cannot be used with kosher food.

When it comes to labeling, Kosher foods are either labeled meat (e.g., OU-Meat or an OU-Glatt symbol); dairy (e.g., OU-D); fish (e.g., OU-Fish); or Pareve (e.g., OU or OU-Pareve). Pareve means it contains neither meat nor dairy. There are four big regulating agencies with recognizable symbols for Kosher: the OU, Kof-K, OK, and Star-K. All four originated and are headquartered in the United States.


All foods are considered halal except the following, which are haram, or forbidden: alcoholic drinks, non-halal animal fat, non-halal source gelatine, lard, non-Halal animal shortening, pork, stock, and rennet (all forms should be avoided except for plant, microbial and synthetic.) Many halal foods are labeled with the word “halal” somewhere on the package. The Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America answers several questions about halal, including the halal certification and sources of halal. In addition, several states in the US mandate their own labeling of halal. As of 2016, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency mandated that each labeling of halal be accompanied by the labeling agency or company that denoted it as so.


Pareve is the Yiddish term that refers to foods that contain no meat or dairy ingredients. Products that are pareve will have a plain “OU” symbol or “OU-Parevesymbol on them.

While it may seem a little overwhelming to understand the difference between Kosher, Halal, and Pareve, any holiday guests that follow these guidelines will really appreciate the extra effort you’ve made to accommodate them. Remember to look for the certified stamps for Kosher, Halal and Pareve when deciding on foods to buy for your gathering. At the very least, labeling the main ingredients of your food should lessen the confusion (i.e. dairy and meat). It may also help to give one of your friends a call — they might be able to help you finish this planning and it’s always more fun to do with someone. Happy Holidays!