Living With Food Allergies

What Does Kosher for Passover Mean for Food Allergies?

"Kosher for Passover" defined:

As explained in our article Kosher Labeling and Milk Allergy, "kosher" foods are foods which meet Jewish dietary laws. These dietary laws forbid  the eating of certain foods. Certain foods must be made in certain ways or with rabbinic supervision. They also forbid  the mixing of dairy products with meat products.

Passover is a Jewish holiday which is celebrated for seven or eight days in the spring. During Passover, observant Jews follow a second set of dietary laws. These laws are "overlaid" on top of the everyday kosher rules.

The Passover dietary rules restrict the use of grains that can ferment and become leavened. These grains are wheat, barley, spelt, oats and rye. During Passover, people can only eat unleavened grains. Wheat flour is permitted only if it is baked into Matzah (unleavened bread). Yet, in an interesting twist (from the food allergy perspective), one can bake wheat flour into Matzah. You can then grind those Matzah back up to create "Matzah meal" to use as an ingredient in something else. Therefore, foods that are Kosher for Passover are not necessarily free of these grains.

To further confuse things, not all Jews follow the same set of Passover restrictions. Ashkenazi Jews are from Eastern Europe, France and Germany.  Ashkenazi Jews and their descendants follow a stringent set of restrictions. Sephardic Jews are from Spain, Portugal, North Africa and the Middle East.  Sephardic Jews and their descendants follow different Passover rules. Ashkenazi Jews also do not eat corn, soybeans, legumes, rice, millet or other grains during Passover. Some Ashkenazi communities also forbid eating dry peas, caraway, fennel seed, mustard, garlic and peanuts. They also forbid derivatives of any of the forbidden items (such as soybean oil or flavors made from grain alcohol).

Most American Jews are from an Ashkenazi background. For this reason, American kosher foods generally follow the more stringent Ashkenazi rules. Some certifying agencies are stricter than others. Imported Passover foods may not follow the more stringent rules.

So what does all of this mean for those in the food allergy community?

There are certain hard-to-find items that are specially made for eating during Passover. Examples are products made without corn or soy. For some families managing restricted diets, Kosher for Passover foods can offer options not available otherwise. Kosher for Passover foods can be particularly helpful to those managing corn allergy or both milk and soy allergy. For those managing other food allergies, Kosher for Passover foods may not be all that useful.

You can buy Kosher for Passover foods in bulk and then freeze or store for use the rest of the year. Look for Passover foods to begin appearing in markets somewhere between February and mid-March. Kosher markets or a grocery store serving a large community of Jewish shoppers is the best place to find these items.

Some grocers stock Passover items for other Jewish holidays such as Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Chanukah. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are in September. Chanukah occurs around December.

Some things to be aware of:

  • Kosher labeling in general cannot be used as a guide to determine whether a product does or does not contain milk.¹
  • Kosher for Passover does not mean "milk-free" or "safe for your child".
  • Kosher labeling does not address cross contact issues, therefore it's possible that traces of allergens may be in kosher foods, just like any other manufactured foods. As always, be sure to read the ingredient statement on every item purchased. Contact the manufacturers to determine its safety just like any other food you would buy.
  • Kosher for Passover foods often contain eggs and nuts. In fact, eggs and nuts abound during Passover.
  • If you do want to buy Kosher for Passover foods, shop early and go often as the availability varies in the weeks leading up to Passover.
  • Do not confuse the "P" in kosher for Passover for "parve" which means "neither meat nor milk". For instance, a product labeled OUP doesn't mean "parve", it means "for Passover consumption". It still may contain milk.
    • Parve foods are available year 'round but may or may not be Kosher for Passover. Be careful when reading labels; at least one Kosher certifying agency uses the symbol "P" as parve, not Passover, which can cause further confusion.
  • Many Kosher for Passover products contain potato derivatives. Potato derivatives include potato starch and/or potato syrup. These ingredients are used to replace corn syrup or corn starch in the foods. Oils are generally replaced with cottonseed oil.
  • Some of these items are available year ‘round though most are not. Some ketchups, soups and sugars are sold Kosher for Passover throughout the year, for instance.
  • Kosher for Passover foods are not inexpensive. The prices may be as much as double or more the cost of comparable groceries. Be sure to factor that into your budget when stocking up.
  • Kosher for Passover foods are not health foods. They often contain sugars and hydrogenated oils. There is often little nutritional value compared to its usual non-Kosher for Passover counterpart. Make sure that you are comfortable with the nutritional labeling for any product you purchase.

What foods should I stock up on before Passover?

Kosher for Passover foods that KFA members have found helpful include:

  • Margarine (made without dairy, and soy and corn)
  • Chocolate chips (made without milk or soy)
  • Whipped topping (made without dairy, and soy and corn)
  • Flavored syrups, including vanilla, chocolate black cherry, strawberry and raspberry (made without corn)
  • Potato crisps
  • Coating mix for baked chicken
  • Boullion
  • Soup/dip mix
  • Candy (made without corn)
  • Bubble gum (made without corn)
  • Marshmallows (made without corn and soy; but made with egg white or fish gelatin)
  • Vanilla extract
  • Fruit leather
  • Ketchup
  • Mayonnaise
  • Olive oil cooking spray (made without soy lecithin)
  • Soda (made without corn)
  • Gelatin (made from egg or fish or non-animal-based vegan sources)
  • Pudding mix
  • Corned beef
  • Pastrami
  • Hot dogs (soy- free)
  • Chocolate syrup (made without dairy, and soy and corn)
  • Coca-Cola and other sodas (uses cane sugar and is made without corn)
  • Fruit snacks
  • Cottonseed oil
  • Cake mixes (wheat-based cake mixes that are made without dairy and corn)
  • Duck sauce
  • Chocolate spread (made without dairy, and soy and corn)
  • Artificial mustard (made without mustard seed)
  • Frozen foods, like frozen latkes (potato pancakes) (made without dairy, soy, egg and corn)
  • Ice cream (dairy and non-dairy alternatives), sherbets and popsicles.

Our guide Celebrating Passover When Your Child Has Food Allergies is filled with suggestions for an allergy-safe Seder and Passover celebration. Included are meal ideas and tips on how to keep your food allergic child safe.

References

¹ Hahn, M and McKnight, M. Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About FALCPA. Retrieved on April 10, 2013 from http://www.foodallergy.org/advocacy/FALCPA_FAQ.pdf

Medical review April 2013.