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Dietary prohibitions - Judaism - mixing of meat and dairy

The Jewish dietary laws outlined in the Torah have been subject to numerous interpretations. The consumption of blood and of the sciatic nerve, and also the mixing of dairy and meat products are explicitly forbidden. Their symbolic meaning is important and requires rigorous implementation.
Interdits alimentaires – judaïsme – mélanges carnés-lactés
© Shutterstock - ChameleonsEye - The making of unleavened bread by Orthodox Jews follows strict rules that prevent the dough fermenting, Israel, 2011

Dietary prohibitions

Practising Jews consider respecting kashrut and its food restrictions as fundamental. Kashrut is the body of Jewish dietary laws and customs stipulating the products that are either permitted or forbidden to be eaten and the manner in which they must be prepared.

Animals which can be consumed must be slaughtered in accordance with precise rules, called shehita. It is forbidden to consume the sciatic nerve or blood, which is equated with the principle of life.

Another dietary rule, cited three times in the Torah, concerns the separation of meat and dairy produce: “You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.” (Exodus 23:19 and 34:26 and Deuteronomy 14:21) While this prohibition is interpreted in many different ways, it seems to be the one which the majority of Jews obey the most.

Prohibition on mixing dairy products with meat

In Jewish tradition, the prohibition on mixing dairy and meat products has been interpreted in several different ways. Some see it as an implementation of the same principle of separating animals authorised for consumption from those that are forbidden. Others associate it with the general prohibition on certain mixtures set out in the Torah, such as that of coupling animals from different species. Yet others see it as symbolic: the refusal to mix life (milk) and death (meat).

Several rules must therefore be followed to respect the prohibition on cooking and consuming meat products with dairy products. Traditionally, this separation begins in the kitchen as, in the refrigerator, these products must not come into contact with one other. Similarly, different cooking utensils and dishes are used and are washed and stored separately.

For practising Jews, respecting the laws of kashrut and its restrictions makes eating outside the home complicated. This means, for example, choosing restaurants under rabbinical supervision. However, kashrut laws which have structured the Jewish diet have also been adapted to the culinary traditions of host countries and countries of residence, borrowing their ingredients and their recipes.

Time between milk and meat

A certain amount of time must be left after consuming a meat dish before eating a dairy product, so that the meat and milk are not mixed in the stomach. The waiting time however is shorter if a meat product is eaten after a dairy product.