OU Kosher adds two new options to consumer-product search website

Dairy equipment and yoshon categories offered in response to community requests.

Of the hundreds of weekly queries OU (Orthodox Union) Kosher fields from consumers via its Kosher Hotline and Webbe Rebbe forum, the most popular centers on Oreo cookies.

“The most frequently asked shaila in America is whether Oreos are dairy, pareve, or simply made with dairy equipment,” says OU Kosher Chief Executive Officer Rabbi Menachem Genack. “While some Oreos are dairy, others are in fact pareve. But they are all marked OU-D in order to enable the manufacturers to change the formula, should they wish, without having to incur the tremendous costs of altering product labels.”

The Oreo question is particularly meaningful to people who observe Cholov Yisroel, live in smaller Jewish communities devoid of pareve food options, have milk allergies, or simply wish to indulge in these treats following a meat meal.

Thanks to OU Kosher’s recent addition of two new categories to its product search website, consumers can now obtain instant answers to their dairy equipment and yoshon-related questions. The site now also lists 2,000 additional products designated by OU Kosher as DE or yoshon that lack the official certification symbols on the product packaging.

“We’re here to serve the community,” says OU Kosher Chief Operating Officer Rabbi Moshe Elefant. “That’s our mission. Consumers have increasingly conveyed that the DE and yoshon designations are important to them, and we have responded.  OU Kosher’s objective is to provide timely kashrus information in the most sophisticated way possible.”

As the world’s largest and most widely recognized international kosher certification agency, OU Kosher certifies over one million products manufactured in 13,000 plants in 105 countries. The organization certifies two-thirds of all kosher food in the United States and has endorsed DE and yoshon products for over 20 years. 

Launched in 2011, OU Kosher’s consumer product search website already enabled visitors to search for meat, dairy, pareve, kosher for Passover, pas yisroel, cholov yisroel and gluten free products.

Rabbi Genack notes that as with Oreos, other foods confirmed as DE or yoshon by OU Kosher may lack official symbols on the product packaging due to the prohibitive costs to manufacturers of updating product labels, in the event that ingredients change.

Because manufacturers can potentially alter their formulas and re-add milk to DE items, certain foods listed as DE on the consumer product search website are marked as “Subject to change – Please check on DE status every few months.”

“A company with an OU-D certified product can add milk to the recipe in the future and it’s their right,” says OU Kosher Executive Rabbinic Coordinator Rabbi Moshe Zywica, who worked on the website additions together with OU Chief Technology Officer Jeremy Sanders.

“Therefore, OU Kosher is saying, right now the item falls under DE according to our investigation, but don’t assume that it will always be DE. The website is updated daily; people should recheck items’ status every few months where indicated, because even if the recipe changes, it will take time for the updated product to reach store shelves.”

As for products confirmed as yoshon on OU Kosher’s consumer product site but which appear unmarked, Rabbi Zywica explains that many lack certification symbols because companies prefer not to have extra writing on their products beyond the small OU symbol.

The Torah forbids eating the new year’s grains until after the second day of Passover. This prohibition applies to five varieties of grain: wheat, barley, spelt, rye and oats. After the second day of Passover, all grain which took root before Passover is viewed as yoshon (old), and is permitted. Grain which took root after the second day of Passover is known aschodosh and is not permitted until after the second day of Passover the following year.

In Israel all grain products are required to be yoshon, but whether this is required in Chutz la’Aretz is the subject of controversy. Rabbi Genack notes that it was Rabbi Ahron Soloveichik, zt”l, who spearheaded the movement of adherence to yoshon in North America. The concern for chodosh grain in the United States is a relatively recent phenomenon, Rabbi Genack explained.

“Until the late 1960s, the U.S. had a huge wheat surplus,” he says, and therefore all grain that reached the market was yoshon. “During the Nixon era, there were massive grain sales to Russia and the U.S. no longer had that kind of surplus, so the issue of chodosh emerged. Rav Ahron Soloveichik believed very strongly in the importance of keeping yoshon even outside of Israel. While the number of people who kept yoshon was small in his day, it has become more widespread. Many others, however, continue to follow the lenient positions about chodosh in Chutz La’Aretz, such as that of the Bach and others.”

Rabbi Elefant notes that significant time and resources were dedicated to adding the DE and yoshon options, and the project is ongoing.

OU Kosher’s rabbinic coordinators spent considerable time researching each product, and the field representatives verify that each item’s composition remains consistent,” says Rabbi Elefant. “OU’s IT department also invested tremendous effort and countless hours to create the program and ensure that the information remains current. We are grateful to everyone for their dedication to OU Kosher consumers.”


Phyllis Koegel

Marketing Director, OU Kosher



About OU Kosher

OU (Orthodox Union) Kosher is the world’s largest and most widely recognized international kosher certification agency, certifying over 1,000,000 products produced in more than 13,000 plants located in 105 countries around the world. The agency certifies two-thirds of all kosher-certified foods in the United States.

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