Rabbi Polsky Answers Ten Passover Questions

March 13, 2009

So you thought that Passover had only four questions, the Ma Nishtanah. Well, that’s true, but those are the questions asked during the Seder. Given the complexity of the holiday and its preparation, there are countless more questions on how to prepare correctly and what may and may not be eaten.

For the past five years, Rabbi David Polsky, who handles the OU Kosher Hotline all year, responding to queries about all aspects of kosher, has been devoting his pre-Passover time to answering a wide variety of holiday-related questions. Below are ten of the most commonly asked Passover questions he receives every year.

1-Does frozen salmon require special Passover supervision?

Raw frozen salmon that contains nothing other than water and salt does not require special Passover supervision. Although the ingredients frequently list coloring, this refers to pellets that salmon are fed that have no effect on their Passover status.

2-Do raw meat and poultry products require special Passover supervision?

All meat and poultry do not require special Passover supervision as long as they are raw and unprocessed. Ground meat and poultry count as unprocessed for these purposes.

3-Does coffee require special Passover supervision?

All regular ground coffees are acceptable for Passover use when bearing an OU.

Decaffeinated coffee: Coffee is often decaffeinated by means of ethel acetate, which is derived from either kitniyos (legumes) or chametz. Therefore, decaffeinated coffees are not acceptable for Passover unless specifically listed in the gray pages of our Jewish Action OU Guide to Passover (the section which contains items that do not require Passover certification).
Instant coffees often contain maltodextrin, which is derived from either corn (kitniyos) or wheat (chametz). Therefore, all instant coffees require special Passover certification unless explicitly mentioned in the gray pages (the section in our Guide to Passover that lists items that do not require Passover certification).

4-Which medications/vitamins are Kosher for Passover?

Medications that are non-chewable and do not contain flavored coatings do not even have to be Kosher for Passover, as they are inedible and are not consumed in a normal manner. Rabbis disagree as to whether the same can be said for non-chewable vitamins. We suggest you consult with your personal rabbi as to whether or not they should be Kosher for Passover. For further details regarding medicines for Passover, we suggest you turn to page 23 of this year’s Guide to Passover. We cannot emphasize enough that you should speak to your personal rabbi before refraining from taking any medication for any reason.

5-My favorite brand of OU certified Extra Virgin Olive Oil was omitted from the gray pages (list of OU certified items that do not require special Passover certification). Is it still acceptable for Passover?

We suggest you turn to the white box on top of page 25. It provides a list of food categories that are acceptable even if they are omitted from the gray pages. Since Extra Virgin Olive Oil is listed, your brand is acceptable for Passover without special Passover certification.

6-My favorite brand of spring water was listed in both the gray pages (items that do not require special Passover supervision) and the white pages (items that are certified for Passover. How could this be?

Many companies elect to get special Passover supervision for their products even when their product would be acceptable without it. The white pages list every product that is certified by the OU as Kosher for Passover, even when such supervision is not required. For this reason, the product will be listed in the white pages. Yet because the item is acceptable for Passover even without bearing an OU-P or Kosher for Passover, it is also listed in the gray pages as well.

7-Which paper plates can I purchase for Passover?

On page 82 in our Passover guide and on http://oukosher.org/index.php/passover/article/5705 ) you will find a list of inedible products that can be used on Passover without any supervision whatsoever. These items are permitted by our rabbinical authorities either because they contain no chametz or kitniyos, or because the items are so inedible that they can be used regardless of any chametz or kitniyos.

8-Can I use quinoa on Passover?

Rabbinical authorities disagree as to whether or not quinoa, the seeds of the goosefoot plant, is kitniyos. Those who permit it do so because it was not known to Jews when it became accepted to refrain from kitniyos. Others disagree and argue that it should be prohibited because it resembles other forms of kitniyos. Even if you follow the lenient opinion, we recommend sifting through your quinoa before using it to ensure that there are no chametz grains mixed in.

Update (Pesach 2014): For the OU’s updated policy on Quinoa see here.

9-My child or relative relies on a special formula or shake that is not certified for Passover. Can they use it?

Most OU certified formulas contain kitniyos, which is why they are not certified for Passover. According to Jewish law, many people with special needs and diets are exempt from the custom of kitniyos. We suggest speaking to your rabbi to ascertain whether you or a loved one meets these criteria.
We have put together a list of OU certified health products that contain kitniyos but no chametz. This list can be found on page 22 of the Passover guide and (http://oukosher.org/index.php/passover/article/5706 ) on our website. If a health product does not appear on this list, please do not hesitate to call the Kosher Consumer Hotline (212-613-8241) or e-mail us (kosher@ou.org) and we will be happy to try and help you.

10-Can I use milk that is not certified for Passover?

You can use your regular brand of milk even if it is not certified for Passover. Just try to purchase it before Passover so that any chametz would be nullified before Passover.
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A note on kitniyos: Since medieval times, Ashkenazic Jews have accepted a custom of not consuming legumes and non-chametz grains during Passover. The reasons for the custom were that many of these species are ground into flour (which could lead one to confuse it with grain flour) and because of the possibility that chametz could get mixed into kitniyot. Sefardim have never adapted this practice and therefore consume kitniyot on Passover.