What Does Kosher for Passover Mean for Food Allergies?
"Kosher for Passover" defined:
As explained in our article on Kosher Labeling and Milk Allergy, "Kosher" foods are foods which meet Jewish dietary laws. These dietary laws prohibit the consumption of certain foods, require that foods be processed in certain ways or with particular rabbinic supervision, and prohibit 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 which are "overlaid" on top of the everyday Kosher rules.
The Passover dietary rules restrict the use of grains that can ferment and become leavened: wheat, barley, spelt, oats and rye. During Passover only unleavened grains are allowed. Thus wheat flour is permitted only if it is baked into Matzah (unleavened bread). However, in an interesting twist (from the food allergy perspective), it is permitted to bake wheat flour into Matzah and 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 (the Jews of Eastern Europe, France, Germany and their descendents) follow a more stringent set of restrictions than Sephardic Jews (the Jews of Spain, Portugal, North Africa, the Middle East and their descendents). In addition to avoiding wheat (except as baked into Matzah), barley, spelt, oats and rye, Ashkenazi Jews also do not eat corn, soybeans, legumes, rice, millet or other grains during Passover. Some communities also prohibit the consumption of dry peas, caraway, fennel seed, mustard, garlic and peanuts – as well as derivatives of any of the forbidden items (such as soybean oil or flavors made from grain alcohol).
Because most American Jews are from an Ashkenazi background, American Kosher foods generally follow the more stringent rules. Some certifying agencies are stricter than others and 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 – especially products made without soy or corn – that are specially made for consumption during Passover. 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.
Kosher for Passover foods can be purchased in bulk and frozen or stored for use the rest of the year. Look for Passover foods to begin appearing in markets somewhere between February and mid-March. If there is a Kosher market near you, or a grocery store serving a large community of Jewish shoppers, these would probably be the best places to go. In some locales, you might even find grocers stocking Passover items on occasion of other Jewish holidays such as Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur (generally around September) and Chanukah (around December), though that does not occur everywhere.
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 contamination 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 and 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 purchase 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" and it still may be dairy. 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 such as potato starch and/or potato syrup which are used to replace the corn syrup or corn starch in the ingredients. 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
*Update*: Kids With Food Allergies has published a new booklet: "Celebrating Passover when your child has food allergies" that 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.
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
Approved by KFA Medical Advisory Team, February 2008. Updated April 2013.
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