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Austin Chronicle Kosher Certification

MARCH 29, 1999: 

Kosher Certification

From macaroons to jarred borscht to many-flavored matzoh, Jews rely on packaged "Kosher for Passover" goods: foods that are not only kosher, but are also approved for holiday consumption. Such certification means that a product's manufacturing and packaging never brings it into contact with one of the forbidden foods or even with a machine that had been used to produce such food. Companies will apply to a certifying body for Passover inspection in enough time that will allow for the necessary conversion of their manufacturing and packaging processes. If a company passes inspection, which can include the special cleansing of machinery and the alteration of a food's ingredients, Passover certification is granted for a proscribed period of time. Coca-Cola, for instance, applies for certification for one month, which allows the company enough time to bottle its Passover product with a substitute ingredient (cane sugar, as found in the original Coke formula, instead of corn syrup).

There are several reasons why Passover certification is only for a limited time. For one, substituting ingredients can be costly. In Coke's case, cane sugar is more expensive than corn syrup for year-round use. Moreover, Passover production limits the kinds of products that a company can make and/or risks cross-contamination of Passover products with non-certifiable ones. Frozen vegetables provide a good example of this. A frozen assortment of broccoli and carrots could potentially be certified for Passover, but because it is handled by the same equipment that puts out the frozen vegetable-pasta combinations, it is not. Lastly, there is simply no demand for Passover products other than for one week out of the year.

Strictly speaking, all prohibited foods must be removed from a Jewish household during Passover. This explains why even things like mousetraps, which may use a grain-based bait, and orthodontic rubber bands, which may be coated with corn starch, are often not certifiable for this holiday. For a list of Kosher for Passover products and for more information on the holiday's food guidelines, consult the following Web sites: http://www.ok.org/pasconsumer59.html or http://www.kashrut.com.

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