By Layah Ornish
Taking vitamins and supplements is a common part of many people’s healthful lifestyle today. Kosher ones are easy to obtain, so it may not occur to you that they may not additionally be Kosher for Pesach.
But consuming vitamins and supplements containing chometz on Pesach, says Rabbi Mordechai Levin, Rabbinical Coordinator of KOF-K, should be treated like any other “food” item consumed on Pesach and not like a medicinal remedy.
“We try to distance ourselves as much as possible from exposing ourselves with anything that could have a chometz origin from the five [prohibited] grains: wheat, barley, spelt, rye, and oats [other than matzah].”
Whether it’s a daily dose of Vitamin C for prevention, or a product to aid more serious medical conditions, decisions have to be made about whether or not to consume these products during the eight days and, if so, which products to consume.
Jews of Sephardic origin are permitted to consume certain grain products during Pesach, called “kitniyos,” that Ashkenazic Jews are not, which may also affect which vitamins and supplements may be taken.
KOF-K has served the Kosher consumer for over 40 years, certifying Kosher vitamins and supplements for large American companies such as Solgar and Bluebonnet Nutrition. They also certify numerous products as Kosher for Passover, ranging from candies and wine to dairy products, coffee and tea, vegetables, cooking sauces, and non-food items such as oven and pan liners.
However, says Rabbi Levin, KOF-K does not give any certification of vitamins or supplements as Kosher for Pesach, “because of the intricacies of problems with vitamins.”
So what should you do?
“I would suggest,” says Rabbi Levin, “that unless it’s for therapeutic purposes, I would tell you to refrain, if you could. It’s like taking any medication on Pesach,” he adds. “The general rule- of-thumb is that if it’s a prescription that a doctor insists has to be taken, it falls into the ‘permitted’ category. But most vitamins are usually preventive measures, more elective, not necessities.
“Most of the pharmacists and doctors I’ve spoken to,” he adds, “say that abstaining during the week of Pesach will not harm an individual. Again, I’ll qualify that statement and say if the doctor insists that something has to be done, and there’s a regimen a person has to follow, and by not taking it would cause harm, it’s permitted.” Your physician should advise you.
Eliezer Gruber, a certified nutritionist and founder of Nutri-Supreme Research and Supplements, says to make a product that is Kosher for Pesach means that the ingredients were screened and it was done on equipment that was kashered for Pesach, and the company made a special run.
He designs his company’s products and outsources their manufacture. Although their ingredients have been certified Kosher by KOF-K, they have not been screened, for their Kosher for Pesach content. “If someone asks me if they’re Kosher for Pesach, I say that they’re not made for Kosher for Pesach certification that I’m aware of.”
He agrees with Rabbi Levin that the issue is one of medical necessity.
“Maybe one of my products is lowering their blood sugar so it’s close to normal, and if they don’t take it, that would be detrimental. Maybe they have severe osteoporosis and have to take calcium. That’s a type of person for whom it would be difficult to go eight days without a product.
“If someone calls me up and wants to know if my Coenzyme Q10 is Kosher for Pesach because it’s used medicinally — in treating Parkinson’s Disease and cardiovascular diseases — so it would be very difficult for a lot of people not to take that, as well, on Pesach, I would give them a status report, as well as I am able to research it, as to what the product has in it. I would have to call the Rabbi who goes into the plant in Japan and sees all the documentation of how this CoenzymeQ10 is processed, in order to give an accurate answer to the consumer. Is there a question of chometz, or is it a question of kitniyos, or neither?
“What I can also do is call the company and ask them for an allergy statement. You really can’t poskin, determine, whether it’s chometz-free, but at least it’s a beginning. Just because it my be gluten free, it does not mean that it is chometz-free. I tell the customer, ‘This is the documentation I have from the company.’ If I can get additional information, I supply it to the person inquiring about the product and tell them to call their Rabbi.
“But if someone calls and asks whether my multi-vitamin, which has 30 ingredients, is Kosher for Pesach, I tell them not to take it during Pesach. No one medically needs to take a multi-vitamin, so they should go the eight days without it.
Ben Landau, general manager of KosherVitamins.com, says they carry two lines of products that include special Kosher for Pesach vitamins and supplements. The products are certified Kosher for Passover and all year round.
Some of them, he says, have no chometz but may have one-to two-percent kitniyos.
He says they only accept strictly-Orthodox hechshers, but, “We’re not Rabbis, so we always recommend that they consult their rabbi.”
The website also sells shampoos, cosmetics, and other products for Pesach that are not consumed internally.
The standard in Jewish law for those, says Rabbi Levin, is “not fit for a dog’s consumption,” meaning that a dog wouldn’t eat it. He cautions against products that may contain oats, wheat proteins or ethyl alcohols, which could come from chometz grain origins. “But once it’s in an inedible state, he says, you’re allowed to use them.” There is another halachick criterion, called “Achshevai” which relates to liquid alcohol disinfectants and perfumes, some hairsprays and aftershaves. “Achshevai” means when a person considers something generally non-edible, edible. Rabbi Levin relates about a story in a popular Canadian newspaper, where they had a picture of a “drunk” surrounded by cans of “Lysol” disinfectant, which contains a denatured “ethyl alcohol”. The story read that the “drunk” would puncture the cans and makes dilutions and drink his concoction, for his daily high. It was a lot cheaper than the scotch and ryes from the local liquor store.
If products sold as “Kosher for Passover” have reliable certifications from organizations that are major players in the Kosher industry, he says, “I wouldn’t have any reservations whatsoever using their products. Anything else, unless it’s a bona-fide organization that you know they’re well acquainted with the manufacturing process, unless it’s a medication or a prescription drug, I would say to wait.”
Rabbi Levin also cautions that an active ingredient may not contain chometz, but a filler that’s being used to give a tablet body or act as a carrier, or a flavoring agent, may. In addition, a product’s purification process sometimes may use grain alcohol.
If you require more information, Rabbi Levin says he is happy to assist in providing information. He can be reached at the KOF-K headquarters at (201) 837-0500, extension 103.
 (Footnote added by Rabbi Moishe D; Lebovits) Refer to Rosh Mesechtas Pesachim 2:1, Mishnah Berurah O.C. 442:43, Aruch Ha’shulchan 442:30, see Achi Ezer 3:33:5: (end), Refer to Nishmas Avraham Y.D. 84:page 21, Mishnas Rav Aron 1:17:page 72. Whether this applies to medicines see Igros Moshe O.C. 2:92 (first paragraph), Chazon Ish O.C. 116:8, Emes L’Yaakov Y.D. 84:footnote 33, Yechaveh Da’as 2:60, Minchas Shlomo 1:17, OU document I-97, see Kesav Sofer O.C. 111, Tzitz Eliezer 6:6, 7:32:8, 10:25:20, Mesora 7:page 91. Refer to Shagas Aryeh 75:page 411-412 (new) who is stringent.