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Passover 2020 Recap

By Arlene Mathes-Scharf Copyright© 2020

Kashrut.com is a year-round Kosher food information website with a Passover section that lists or links to Kosher information from around the world. Kashrut.com was established in May 1996 to provide information on kosher to consumer and commercial readers. For the Passover 2020 Season March 1 to April 17, 2020, the Kashrut.com site had approximately 191,000 page downloads. The Kashrut.com had over 117000 Visits. The Passover index page itself had over 29,000 visitors. The Kashrut.com website transferred 355 GB gigabytes of information.

The 2020 Covid-19 Passover season was unusual, with many people making Passover for the first time and many consumers shopping earlier in the season, trying to get what they needed before the “covid peak”. Kashrut.com got questions from people looking for Passover information. From the questions we found the following: many people making Passover for the first time, late availability of information, medication questions from people assuming that they could use any medication with a coating, shortages, kitniot in Passover sections of supermarkets, some of the questions that we received and some good news from this Passover season.

Shortages: Some products were hard to find. I got quite a few questions from people unable to find Passover certified cream or half-and-half and wanting to use the non-certified varieties. The early Empire closure due to Coronavirus produced chicken shortages in many areas.

Late availability of information: The major kosher certifying agencies released the Passover information after Purim as they do every year, which is approximately a month before Passover. The information is available earlier since Passover products have been produced or scheduled earlier in the year and the hard copy books have been sent to the printer. This year, the lack of information became a real problem for people trying to shop early. The local kosher agencies use the information from the major agencies to prepare the lists that they send out. Some of these lists are organized to help people obtain Passover usable food in areas with poor kosher resources. The local information came out very late, because the agencies must rely on the major agencies for information.

Medication Questions: I got a surprising number of medication questions. Most of these were people who told me the medication that they take is coated as so they were not sure that it was usable for Passover.

Kitniot in Passover sections: There are an increasing number of Passover foods containing kitniot available in general supermarkets including areas without large Sephardi populations. The only way to tell which products were usable for people who do not eat kitniot on Passover was by carefully reading each label and deciphering the Hebrew of the kosher certification. There were non-kitniot and kitniot varieties of the same of similar items next to each other on the shelf. I saw “ersatz” mustard (non-kitniot) and real mustard (kitniot) next to each other on the shelf. Tomato sauce Passover snacks with and without peanuts were also next to each other on the shelf.

Non-Passover Products in Passover sections: I also found non-Passover certified Israeli products on Passover shelves. Shelving staff assume a kosher symbol in Hebrew means Passover. Often Passover and non-Passover products have the same UPC code so the shelving staff would need to check each product for Passover certification.

Good news from this Passover season & Questions: The clear OU policy allowing Chosen Avocado Oil and virgin OU certified Coconut Oil eliminated many of the questions that I got previously about these items that consumers wanted to use. I got a number of questions about the Passover status of non-Passover certified agave nectar, quinoa, vegetable wash, almond milk, coconut sugar, Ricola cough drops, and Tums.

Passover comes every year. Hopefully, we can use the lessons learned in Passover 2020 for consumers to observe easier Chag Kasher v’Samech in 2021.

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Arlene J. Mathes-Scharf  
Food Scientist - Kosher Food Specialist
Scharf Associates
P.O. Box 50
Sharon, MA 02067