By: Rabbi Yaakov Luban
Government regulations concerning the labeling of food ingredients have undergone strict changes. Not only must the label specify the type of shortening, i.e., vegetable or animal, but it must declare the actual source as well. Thus, it is commonplace to find mention of cottonseed oil, lard, coconut oil, and other oil sources. The result of this explicit label display is that the consumer can easily detect what is blatantly non-kosher. However, it is important to be aware that the kosher status of a product containing even pure vegetable shortening can only be verified by reliable kosher certification. The reason for this is that manufacturers of vegetable shortening often process animal fats on common equipment. Pure vegetable products may satisfy USDA guidelines for purity, however, in terms of Jewish law, vegetable oil may be non-kosher because it is processed on non-kosher equipment.