Q. Printed warnings are appearing more and more frequently on products regarding traces of nuts and dairy ingredients. A kosher cream cheese even has the wording “may contain traces of fish, crustacea and soya”.

This causes confusion, especially when products which are labeled as “Parev”, display a warning on it claiming traces of dairy. What is the explanation for this apparent anomaly?

A. Some products have a disclaimer printed on the labels, which conform to the food regulations regarding warnings on allergens. This would include products which are approved by the Beth Din as being “Kosher” and “Parev”. It is well known that contact with even the minutest amount of certain allergens can be the cause of devastating and even fatal allergic reactions in some people. Wording such as “this product may contain traces of milk”, must therefore be used when there is even the remotest possibility that some parts per million of milk may be present in the product – even though dairy-based products are not actually used or listed as an ingredient, but rather are present in the same factory.

Such traces are now mentioned as present because of the possibility that there may be some traces left on machinery or equipment even after cleaning or kashering from other dairy-based products. Alternately, where dedicated equipment is used, there may be product-dust in the air from other dairy-based products or ingredients used elsewhere in the factory which could settle in minute amounts on equipment or ingredients used in the otherwise dairy-free products. The possibility of the presence in even such minute amounts needs to be printed on the label to protect people from allergic reactions, and the manufacturer from potential legal action.

However, the Beth Din assures Kosher consumers that the very minute amounts referred to in the statement “this product may contain traces of milk” (or fish, or crustacea or soya), have no Halachic significance whatsoever regarding otherwise Parev and Kosher products. Such products are still considered Kosher and Parev.