Notes on Kashrut
The following symbols are most likely to be found indicating that a product is kosher:
Other regional symbols often found on products are:
There are many other kosher symbols which are likely to appear on a few products. A product may simply say כשר or kosher.
However, ®, ™, or © has nothing to do with kashrut. These indicate that the brand is trademarked or copyrighted by the government.
The plain K is not a copyrighted symbol and therefore may be used by anyone. Ideally one should check with the company to know who is the Rabbi giving hashgahah (supervision). It is conceivable that the company has a plain K on the product without any rabbinic supervision.
A kosher symbol merely indicates that the product is kosher. It does not indicate whether a product is meat, dairy or parve. Sometimes the product will say: (U)D or KD or KM. This indicates that the product is dairy.
Sometimes the product will have the word "parve" next to the kosher symbol. This indicates that the product may be used for any kind of meal.
When (U)P or (K)P appears on the product it indicates that the product is kosher for Pesah (Passover). (It may be parve as well but the P does not relate to "whether it's parve or not). However, when a KP appears on a bread or cake it indicates it is parve, but in no way is it kosher for Pesah.
A few products may say fleishig (meat) or milchig (dairy). You can assume that kosher meat products are prepared only by manufacturers and processors who deal exclusively with kosher products. I am not aware of any general American food manufacturer or processor who makes kosher meat products.
The matter is different with dairy and parve products. More and more general American food companies are opting to put as many of their products as possible under kosher supervision.
However, if the kosher symbol appears without additional information as to whether it is dairy or parve you must read the ingredients carefully to ascertain its status. The product is as likely to be dairy as it is to be parve. Milk, butter, butterfat, cheese, cream and milk solids obviously classify a product as dairy. In addition, the following ingredients make a product dairy: lactose, whey or dairy whey, sodium caseinate or casein. A parve product can have none of these ingredients.
Please note that the term "butter" if used with another food is not dairy but means a spread. Thus, peanut butter, cocoa butter, prune butter, apple butter and the like, are all parve.
Supermarket chains sell many kinds of food under their own label. Some of the food processors they use are under rabbinic supervision. However, a supermarket chain can easily change the processor for any of its products. Thus a chocolate chip cookie sold under a particular supermarket label may be kosher one year and unkosher the next. Of course, this is true generally as well. A major manufacturer can decide to place its products under rabbinic supervision or may just as easily opt not to continue such supervision.
Vigilance is necessary.