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.
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:
What foods should I stock up on before Passover?
Kosher for Passover foods that KFA members have found helpful include:
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.
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.