By Margie Pensak
As I sit in my cozy glass cubicle at STAR-K Kosher Certification, I realize as private as it is, it is not impervious to the cacophony of multiple simultaneous STAR-K Kosher Hotline phone rings in the weeks leading up to Pesach, nor to getting wind of some of the recurring themes of the thousands of questions it fields from as far away as Israel, England, and Kuwait!
The STAR-K Kosher Hotline experts tell me that questions about coconut products are a biggie, this year, perhaps tying for first place with longtime standard questions about oral care products, soaps, fiber, pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals, cosmetics, pain relievers, dried fruit, and oven queries-such as, ‘For how long do I have to kasher out my oven?’
Apparently, what many kosher consumers do not realize is that pure ingredient information is not enough to say that the product is Kosher for Passover, when the manufacturing facility is also being used for producing chometz and/or kitniyos products. The processing facility is an important component, for example, in assessing the Kosher for Passover (KFP) status of all coconut products-i.e., coconut cream, coconut milk, coconut oil, and shredded coconut. They all require a KFP certification for this reason. Also, even though many coconut items and oils are KFP at the source, since they are re-packed in facilities that do other non-KFP products without hashgacha, STAR-K cannot assume responsibility for their Pesach status, and cannot recommend them for Pesach. STAR-K only recommends one brand of its retail certified coconut products for Pesach: The Coconut Secret brand (Leslie Organics) product line (aminos, sap, sugar, and coconut flour) is fine for Passover use when bearing the plain STAR-K symbol; no P symbol is required, with the exception of coconut oil.
Similarly, the processing of what seems like innocuous dried fruits can be problematic for KFP usage. Dates may have been rolled in oat flour; apricots may have been rolled in rice flour. Raisins are oil treated with kitniyos oil, to prevent sticking. Prunes may have been treated with potassium sorbate, a food preservative that is kitniyos. Grapeseed oil, which is sprayed on raisins to help them retain their flavor, for example, presents a kitniyos issue, as well, much to the chagrin of one Hotline caller from Colombia, South America!
Fresh produce presents another Kosher for Passover challenge, particularly because it is Shmita year. Beware of carrots that are exported from Israel! Ascorbic acid, probably the most widely used anti-browning agent that help vegetables, such as bagged baby carrots and potatoes, retain their color, is a kitniyos derivative (and could even possibly be chometz).
When it comes to pharmaceuticals, although some are chometz-free, they may contain kitniyos as an inactive ingredient. The medications that were reviewed for Pesach usage by STAR-K-and included in the 2015 STAR-K Passover Directory-may be used. [For most medications there are no kitniyos-free alternatives, therefore, meds should be kept separately from and dispensed in other than Kosher for Pesach utensils.]
The Halachos of Taking Medication on Pesach, found in the Directory, are based on the psak of HaRav Moshe Heinemann and Rabbi Gershon Bess. It emphasizes that no one should refrain from taking any required medication even if it contains chometz, without first consulting his physician and Rav. It also notes: All medications for a heart condition, diabetes, abnormal blood pressure, stroke, kidney disease, lung disease, depression, epilepsy, the immune system (transplant anti-rejection), and cancer treatment (including precautionary) may be taken on Pesach. Furthermore, all prescription medication taken on a regular basis for chronic conditions should only be changed with the consultation of your physician (if you cannot reach your physician you should continue to take your regular prescription and without change). Some examples of such chronic conditions include the following: Any psychiatric condition, prostate condition, Crohn’s Disease, celiac, colitis, high cholesterol, Parkinson’s Disease, anemia, Multiple Sclerosis, thyroid condition, and asthma.
In anticipation of the thousands of repeat questions the Hotline is asked annually, the 2015 STAR-K Passover Directory provides a sample of chometz-free personal care products, such as Colgate and Scope, in its handy 2015 Quick Pick Personal Care List-http://www.star-k.org/2015PCQuickPick.pdf. It lists products that do not require special KFP certification, such as bottled water, unflavored seltzer, and baking soda, in its downloadable No “P” Required Shopping List [http://www.star-k.org/2015NoPRequired.pdf]. And, it lists some popular acceptable over-the-counter remedies, such as Pepto Bismol Liquid (Original) and Tylenol (Extra Strength Caplets and Regular Strength Tablets), in its downloadable 2015 Quick Pick Medicine List [http://issuu.com/star-k/docs/pesachbook_finalabridged/108].
For further STAR-K Kosher for Passover information and apps, visit: passoverkosher.com. There, you will find the abridged, downloadable PDF Web Edition of the 2015 STAR-K Passover Directory & Medicine Guide] , STAR-K Kashrus Hotline questions about ovens, countertops, cooking utensils, and food products, the Passover Guide for Diabetics, in addition to other in-depth Passover information.
The STAR-K Hotline, 410-484-4110, welcomes your queries for Passover and year-round.