Behind the Chametz-Free Certification

April 4, 2005

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

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

KITNIYOT: Legume products, also not for Passover use, but of a different, more lenient, status than chametz.

The Orthodox Union certifies certain industrial products as “chametz-free.” This means that kitniyot (legumes) may be used as a raw material, although normally they are not used during Passover. These chametz-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. Chametz-free certification is granted only if there are no actual chametz-derived ingredients—namely no derivatives of wheat, rye, oats, barley or spelt—in the product.

What Is Involved In A Chametz-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 chametz-free, special chametz-free enzymes must be used. Many enzymes are prepared from chametz materials such as wheat starch. Enzymes grown on these materials are precluded from a chametz-free certification and thus cannot be used in the corn products they act upon if a chametz-free certification is desired. Most of the major enzyme manufacturers have chametz-free certification on some of their products. Some of these items, however, may have the exact same name of other chametz-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 chametz-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, xanthan 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 chametz-free, the plant must use a corn syrup/glucose that is certified as chametz-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 chametz 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 chametz- 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 chametz items.

XANTHAN 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 chametz-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 baker’s 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 chametz-free, it must be grown on a chametz-free medium. These often include glucose/ dextrose and for Passover these would need to be chametz-free. Orthodox Union-certified companies that produce chametz-free products include but are not limited to: ADM,A.E. Staley, Cargill, Tate and Lyle, Alltech, Genencor and Novozymes. These companies produce products such as polysorbates, citric acid, microbial rennet, xanthan gum, enzymes and more.