The intricacies of modern day food technology make it virtually impossible for anyone but an expert in the field to know whether a processed food is free of any trace of non-kosher ingredients. So all processed foods and eating establishments require certification by a reliable rabbi or kashrut supervision agency.

Check the labels of packaged foods and the kashrut certificates of restaurants and hotels for a copyrighted kashrut symbol like those below.

(Run your mouse over the symbol for information on the certification agencies behind them and click to go the organization's website)

Please note that while these three are the largest kosher certification agencies in the U.S., there are hundreds of other kosher certification agencies – with varying levels of reliability – and each with its own certification symbol. Speak to your rabbi to determine the reliability of a kosher symbol you may encounter.

Special Kosher Labels

Many kosher certifiers also specify details pertinent to the kosher status of the item being certified. Here are some key examples:

Kosher for Passover: A “P” often indicates that the item is kosher to be consumed on Passover, when no chametz (grain which has risen) is allowed.

Meat, Dairy and Parve: Sometimes (but not always), the agency may indicate whether the food item is meat, dairy or parve (neutral). This is important since the kosher laws preclude eating or serving dairy together with meat. A “DE” indicates that the item was processed on diary equipment but does not contain actual dairy ingredients.

Pat Yisrael and Chalav Yisrael: At times, the label may indicate whether or not the item is pat Yisrael (baked by a Jew) and/or chalav Yisrael (milk that has been produced under Jewish supervision).

Mevushal: There are certain laws that pertain to wine but are not applicable if the wine has been cooked. Cooked wine is often labeled as mevushal.

Glatt: The word glatt actually means “smooth” in Yiddish, and refers to the lack of adhesions on the lungs of an animal. Read more about the meaning of glatt kosher.