Behind the “Chometz-Free” Certification

April 4, 2005


For industrial products, the familiar OUP (kosher for Passover) can sometimes be replaced by a “chometz-free” certification. What does this mean? To find out, studying some terminology will be in order.

CHOMETZ Fermented grains (wheat, oats, barley, rye and spelt), all proscribed–that is, forbidden—on Passover;

KITNIYOS Legume products, also not for Passover use, but of a different, more lenient, status than chometz.

The Orthodox Union certifies certain industrial products as “chometz-free.” This means that kitniyos (legumes) may be used as a raw material, although normally they are not used during Passover. These chometz-free certified products must meet very stringent criteria to convert the legumes or their derivatives from proscribed substances to acceptable ones. These changes include a complete chemical transformation from a sweet to sour taste. Chometzfree certification is granted only if there are no actual chometz-derived ingredients—namely no derivatives of wheat, rye, oats, barley or spelt—in the product.

What is involved in a chometz-free certification?

CORN SYRUP / DEXTROSE /ENZYMES

In the United States, most dextrose is derived from corn. There is a small amount made from wheat. Usually, the corn is milled, washed, and the starch slurry is then removed.This slurry is treated with various enzymes that convert the starch into sugar/glucose/ dextrose. In order to produce corn-derived
products to be certified chometz free, special chometzfree enzymes must be used. Many enzymes are prepared from chometz materials such as wheat starch. Enzymes grown on these materials are precluded from a chometz-free certification and thus cannot be used in the corn products they act upon if a chometz-free certification is desired. Most of the major enzyme manufacturers have chometz-free certification on some of their products. Some of these items, however, may have the exact same name of other chometz-based products, so care must be taken to make sure that the correct enzyme from the correct plant is used as stated on the letter of certification. Bills of lading as well as lot numbers have to be checked. In order to maintain chometz-free certification on a product such as corn syrup, quality assurance personnel must constantly check that the right enzymes are received. Corn syrup/dextrose is then used to produce kosher for Passover citric acid, xantham gum, microbial rennet, etc.

SORBITOL
The base material for sorbitol is corn syrup or glucose.When hydrogenated, it becomes sorbitol. In order for sorbitol to be chometz free, the plant must use a corn syrup/glucose that is certified as chometz free. Another issue is whether the facility produces items such as fructose or maltose. Sorbitol can be made from these items also. These products can contain chometz derivates. Sorbitol is used in both enzymes and emulsifiers that are certified for Passover.

MICROBIAL RENNET
This is used extensively in the manufacture of kosher cheese. The material itself is a microbial fermentation which uses glucose/dextrose as well as many other ingredients to get to the finished product. Again chometz- free glucose would be required and all other raw materials would have to be of this standard as well. The fermentation tanks as well as the recovery system may have to be kosherized prior to starting the run, if they were previously used with chometz items.

XANTHAM GUM
This is a fermentation product produced from glucose/dextrose. Specific strains of bacteria are added to the media along with the nutrients necessary for them to thrive. Here, too, we must start with chometz-free ingredients in order to make a kosher-for-Passover product.

YEAST
As no bread or bread products may be used on Passover, we are obviously not referring to bakers yeast.There are many other strains of yeast which can in fact be kosher for Passover. Many of these are used in winemaking as well as for nutrients in fermentation products.Yeast is an excellent source of nitrogen and nitrogen is an essential ingredient in many fermentations. In order for yeast to be chometz free, it must be grown on a chometz-free medium. These often include glucose/ dextrose and for Passover these would need to be chometz free. Orthodox Union-certified companies that produce chometz-free products include but are not limited to:ADM,A.E. Staley, Cargill, Tate and Lyle, Alltech, Genenencor and Novozymes. These companies produce products such as polysorbates, citric acid, microbial rennet, xantham gum, enzymes and more.