By Rabbi Tzvi Rosen, Star-K Kashrus Administrator; Editor, Kashrus Kurrents
As Pesach begins tonight, the grocery bills have mounted and the bank account has dwindled. The Jewish housewife courageously attempts to hold the household budget intact without compromising her strict standard of Pesach Kashrus. She asks: Are there products in the marketplace that live up to their claims of fresh, pure, natural, or additive-free that can be purchased worry-free without special Passover certification, or are there legitimate kashrus concerns that would require the product to carry reliable Kosher for Passover certification? Let us take a behind-the-scenes look at some of these potential products.
Can the Passover consumer confidently purchase fresh fruits and vegetables without worrying about the wax coatings used to maintain the freshness of the fresh fruit and vegetables? Our research of food grade waxes has shown that soy proteins may be used as a thickener in some waxes. This means that the waxes may contain kitniyos derivative. However, since the soy protein would be batel b’rov, it is a minor ingredient, which would be permissible on Pesach, and would not pose a problem to supermarket fruits and vegetables.
Fresh Peeled or Value Added Vegetables
Peeled potatoes, carrots, and celery in plastic pails, or in plastic bags, have become real favorites among housewives. They are fresh, clean, a time saver, and seemingly free of Kosher for Passover concerns. Save One. How do you retard browning, i.e. oxidation, so that the vegetables retain their fresh appearance? Some companies use metabisulfites, which are Kosher for Pesach, other companies use citric acid, which would require Kosher L’Pesach certification. Companies packing their produce in vacuum packed barrier bags use citric acid in the wash water. These concerns must be clarified before purchasing pre-peeled produce. It goes without saying that leafy vegetables going through a clean and wash system would require strict hashgacha on their cleaning system ensuring the consumer that the system effectively removes insects which are forbidden year round.
Dried fruits also require Passover certification. Some dried fruits and vegetables are naturally sun-dried without any additives or sulfur dioxide applied to them to prevent discoloration and inhibit bacterial growth. These naturally, sun-dried products would be Kosher for Pesach. However, fruits and vegetables may be dried in drying tunnels, often being treated with oil to facilitate drying or to act as a release agent. Certain sun-dried fruits are also coated with oil. Some dried fruit producers will commonly use rice or oat flour or chemical release agents to coat their cut up fruit pieces to prevent sticking, as they are being packaged. Potassium sorbate is used to standardize the moisture in dried fruit. In the past, potassium sorbate didn’t present any Passover kashrus concerns. Recently, potassium sorbate derived from grain products has been imported from China, hence dried fruits require reliable Kosher for Passover certification.
Canned vegetables packed in water and salt would also appear to have minimal kashrus concerns. That is true if the canning company only produces vegetables in salt and water. Many companies use the same equipment for saltwater brine as well as sauces and soups that may contain tomato, cheese, meat or chometz. Canned vegetables require reliable Kosher for Passover certification.
Frozen vegetables require reliable Kosher for Passover certification since pasta blends are produced on the same equipment.
There are many products that may be Kosher for Passover without special certification, yet have similar non-Pesach approved counterparts. Frozen Fruit is one such item. Plain, frozen, unsweetened fruit pieces would be acceptable without special Passover certification. Sweetened frozen fruit pieces could be sweetened with liquid sugar or corn syrup, requiring strict Passover supervision.
Like many other products, pure fruit juices, if determined to be a pure juice, could be Kosher for Passover. However, pure juices undergo many different processes to get the best yield from the pressed fruit and clearest color for attractive marketing. Enzymes and clarifying agents are commonly used. These products and the equipment used for processing must be approved Kosher for Passover.
Some assumed 100% pure products are not as 100% as they appear. Although unlikely, 100% pure honey could be adulterated with corn syrup without detection. It has been alleged that 100% pure olive oil can have less expensive seed oils that are blended undetected into the expensive olive oil product.
Coffee & Tea
There are products on the market that could undergo either Kosher for Passover or non-Kosher for Passover processes. Decaffeination is an excellent example. Some coffees are decaffeinated through a Swiss water method, a Kosher for Passover decaffeination process. Other companies use ethyl acetate as a decaffeinate. Ethyl acetate could be chometz. Since the beans are decaffeinated prior to roasting, decaffeinated coffee needs Kosher for Passover certification. If a coffee company roasts their regular and decaffeinated coffees on the same roasters, then the caffeinated coffee, regular and instant, would require Kosher for Passover certification. It goes without saying that flavored coffees require strict Kosher for Passover certification. Decaffeinated and flavored teas share the same Passover concerns as decaffeinated and flavored coffees.
Some coffee companies add maltodextrin to their instant coffees. Maltodextrin can be kitniyos or possibly chometz. Instant coffee requires reliable Kosher for Passover certification.
Instant teas could be spray dried on the same driers as non-Passover approved products. 100% instant tea may have additives, such as flavorings or anti-caking agents added to the tea which may be a problem for Passover use.
Spices could contain spice oils or anti-caking agents that may or may not be Passover approved. Spice blends that just list pure species in their ingredient declaration would also share the same concerns. Pure spices and spice blends could be made on equipment that was used for non-Pesach or non-Kosher spice blends with minimal cleaning between productions. With the advent of Chinese trade, more and more raw ingredients are appearing on the domestic scene from Mainland China. Today, Chinese garlic and onion powder are competing with their domestic counterparts. Since Chinese spices are more pungent than their American counterparts they may be modified. It has been alleged that modification can be made by blending the spice with flour and anti-caking agents. Therefore, pure spices and spice blends require Passover supervision.
Absurd as it may sound, not all matzohs sold in the marketplace are Passover approved. The conscientious Passover consumer must purchase matzohs with reliable Passover certification.
Some age old consumer tips
The housewife should make sure that non-iodized table salt and pure granulated sugar are purchased for Passover use. Iodized salt is iodized with dextrose, confectioner’s sugar and powdered artificial sweeteners contain cornstarch. These products are not Passover approved.
Although Pesach preparation always seems insurmountable, invariably, all the sincere effort always pays off in the end. May all the meticulous preparation merit a Chag Kasher V’Sameach.