Of course, I was alarmed by this and immediately went to my refrigerator and checked out my half gallon of organic Horizon milk. I was somewhat relieved when I found it stamped with a kosher-approved symbol from the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, New York, NY:
Not one to be easily convinced, I contacted Horizon milk to get some answers. From the article my friend had sent me, I knew that the source for Vitamin D3 could be either from a cow, a sheep, or a pig. My question to Brandi, the perky young lady who answered the phone when I called Horizon, was could she verify the source of the Vitamin D3 that Horizon used in its vitamin-fortified products? At first she read to me from a script, but I politely told her that it was not really answering my question. I wanted to know, from them, what was their Vitamin D3 source? She had to put me on hold for a bit, but she did come back to tell me that the Vitamin D3 source they use comes from lanolin, which is found in sheep skins (lanolin is also used in beauty products, among others).
I thanked Brandi asked her if she could send me something in writing for my blog, but she said unfortunately she could not. Today I received email from them, which I've pasted below:
Thank you for your recent e-mail to Horizon Organic®. We appreciate your interest in our products. Vitamin D is sourced from lanolin (a substance produced by wool-bearing animals) is used as a raw material for producing our D3. Thanks again for contacting the Consumer Affairs Department.
Consumer Response Representative
So, I was feeling a little better after talking to Horizon, but I really want to hear it from the source. So, I contacted Rabbi Michael Morris, the milk expert at the Orthodox Union who oversees the Horizon account. He assured me that the source of "all the ingredients is investigated on a regular basis," and that I should have no worries about consuming their milk products. He suggested that I write to Horizon to get verification from them, because they were his client and he could not release their specific information. But we had a brief discussion on how important it is for consumers to be able to trust the OU symbol, and I thanked him for helping to make it easier to feed my family in accordance with Biblical law.
Seeing that I had just gone grocery shopping before I recieved my friend's email, I checked the kefir and the buttermilk I had brought home. Yikes! I never in my life had seen buttermilk with gelatin in it! I had grabbed the Kroger store brand because it was on sale and I needed it for cornbread. In fact, I had made the cornbread the night before and it was staring at me from the countertop! If you have ever made the mistake of not checking labels before you bought something, then used it when you shouldn't have, you will know the sinking feeling I had in my tummy. Alas! There it was, on the bottom of the label on the front of the bottle, the kosher symbol I had been hoping for. It was not the one from the Orthodox Union, but the one from the Organized Kashrus Laboratories:
Then I looked at our delicious Lifeway peach kefir, and did not immediately see the kosher symbol. I picked up the phone, and just about the time someone at Lifeway answered, I found the symbol. It was on the same part of the label that the buttermilk label showed it - front of the container, bottom right side.
So when I went to Trader Joe's this week, I picked up a gallon of their store brand milk because I am getting ready to make my own kefir and yogurt from scratch and wanted some decent organic milk that wasn't overpriced. Trader Joe's milk also carries the Orthodox Union symbol. Their kefir (as well as Lifeway's) carries the kosher symbol from the Chicago Rabbinical Council, which looks like this:
For those of you who shop with kosher in mind, here's a place where you can find a wide variety of kosher symbols used on products in the US: http://www.hanefesh.com/edu/kosher_Food_Symbols.htm#USA However, the most common are the circle K and the circle U and the CRC, so far as I have seen in my kitchen.
If you buy Vitamin D3 fortified milk or milk products and you do not see a kosher symbol on the label, you should consider switching brands to one that has the certification. While the source could be cow or sheep, without that symbol, it could also be from a pig. Yuk!
Thanks to my friend Carol for bringing this to my attention. Happy shopping!