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Passover 2017 Recap


Kashrut.com has a banner Passover 2017 season . Many of the trends that we saw in 2016 are continuing to accelerate. These trends include healthy eating, Passover certified dairy (cholov stam) shortages in the Northeast and large booklets put out by the kosher certifying agencies which make it difficult for some people to access information.

Many kosher consumers do not eat the typical “American Diet”. They eat healthy foods during the year and want to continue this practice on Passover. Unfortunately, there is a big disconnect in what many people eat and what is available as "certified for Passover". This dissonance is multiplied when one does not live near a large kosher supermarket or a supermarket with a large kosher-for-Passover section.

For instance, less Passover quinoa was available this year because of a change in the availability of Passover-usable Ancient Harvest quinoa. Ancient Harvest quinoa had been a staple for people who live outside the major Orthodox metropolitan areas who purchased it in mainstream supermarkets. These supermarkets did not stock the Passover-usable production.

Coconut oil & other coconut products

One the major questions that I have received in previous years is, "Can I use coconut oil for Passover and if so, which coconut oils can one use?" Coconut oil is a solid at room temperature, so it is a great substitute for shortening or margarine in baking, as it contains no trans-fats. Coconut oil also melts around 76°F, so it is easy enough to liquefy. Raw unfiltered coconut oil also has a strong coconut smell. There are now many raw virgin, cold-pressed coconut oils products on the market.

A few days before Passover, in response to a question, the OU stated in a webinar that all extra-virgin, raw, cold-pressed coconut oil with an OU was usable for Passover, even without Passover certification. The information came a bit late this year, but will be useful for consumers next year if the OU continues that same policy.

Trader Joe’s coconut products: Kosher Check, formerly BCK (British Columbia Kosher) indicated before Passover that the Trader Joe’s Coconut products bearing their symbol were produced in a plant that only does coconut and were usable for Passover without a Passover symbol. Information such as this can help both their companies and the Passover consumer by providing information about the usability of their regular certified products during Passover.

Sweeteners

The category of products with the largest number of questions that I received this year was healthy sweeteners. People were looking for stevia, raw honey, maple syrup and coconut sugar to use on Passover. As of Passover I did not get answers about their usability for Passover.

Traceability and allergens

Companies are required by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be able to trace the source of of ingredients and document processing conditions. On the surface it would appear that if a product is labeled as gluten-free in the US it could be used for Passover. However, the presence of gluten-free oats, one of the 5 grains that can become chometz, in a processing facility could make a other gluten-free products not usable for Passover. Oats, barley and rye can become chometz but are not reportable allergens, so their presence in a food plant is not required to be listed on the label. The allergens which are required to be put on a label in the US are wheat, milk eggs, fish, crustacean, tree nuts, peanuts. and soybeans. Some companies aggressively label any possible allergen which could be in a food plant, so a kosher pareve Passover certified or usable product could be labeled as made in a plant that also uses dairy, wheat, shellfish and soy. One major packer of grains and seeds packs items such as flax seeds in a gluten-free facility. However, they also said that oats are ground and packed in a separate room in the facility. This makes it difficult for consumers to know which raw agricultural products without a Passover certification such as nuts or flax seeds they can appropriately purchase.

Using Traceability as a solution

There is a market for Passover certified products in the kosher stores, large Passover sections in supermarkets and Passover programs at hotels. Koshertoday said that “an estimated 80,000 American Jews traveling to destinations all over the world. Sources say that the number of people that left their homes for nearly 100 Passover programs” world-wide. Koshertoday.

Passover certified non-gebrucks products require a higher standard of traceability than the average food product. These products are inherently gluten, soy and corn free. Since the traceablity is potentially already happening, there is a need to expand the “gray pages” (the list of products that are usable for Passover without a Passover certification) to inform non-Passover observant community of the higher standard of traceability and ingredients that Passover usability ensures to increase the market for such products.

Other problems

Cholov stam shortage

Once again there was a Passover cholov stam shortage in the Northeast. I do not know if there was an actual shortage or if products were not sent to where they were needed.

Large booklets

Once again the kosher agencies are producing beautiful large booklets with lots of articles, information and ads. Unfortunately this has made it more difficult for some people to find answers to their questions.



The goal is to make Passover observance easier for the kosher consumer. I have provided some suggestions for next year that hopefully the companies and certifying agencies might consider.



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Arlene J. Mathes-Scharf  
Food Scientist - Kosher Food Specialist
 
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