Meeting The Challenge Of Certifying Flavors For Passover

FLAVORS—THE MYSTERIOUS ingredients added to almost all processed foods that completes the gastronomic experience create unique challenges for Passover certification. Due to the nature of flavor chemicals and the complexity of their manufacture, every chemical in flavors requires individual investigation to determine its Passover status. No master list is available for the raw materials that are acceptable for Passover use, for Passover is so weighty that every flavor is reviewed annually upon specific request of the flavor-house to renew that product’s Passover certification. Only when all ingredients and processing have been approved specifically for Passover is the certification of the flavor renewed for that year. First cousins of flavors that are put into foods are the fragrances that are almost ubiquitous in non-food applications. While fragrances do not present a kosher challenge for year-round use, as they are not ingested and Jewish law only requires items that are eaten to be kosher, Passover rules stipulate that no leavened material be owned by a Jew over the course of the Passover holiday. This necessitates Passover certification of fragrances unless they are totally inedible (even to a dog!). Here is a prime example of the challenge of the certification of Passover flavors: A seemingly innocuous flavor ester called synthetic ethyl acetate that imparts in small doses a fresh fruity flavor, but in high doses gives a smell of vinegar, has its roots in acetic acid and ethanol, and is labeled synthetic because of the acetic acid. Even though the ethyl component may be derived from grains, the ethyl acetate is still called synthetic because it has a component that is synthetic!

Despite the synthetic label, synthetic does not preclude the use of natural ingredients, significantly increasing their Passover concerns. Granted that the cost factor discourages the use of flavor- chemicals derived from natural sources when synthetic flavor- chemicals are available, the item derived from natural sources is a substitute for the synthetic item and therefore is not permitted. What are the general guidelines for Passover certification? All components and processing aids need to have Passover certification. This in turn makes it necessary that any item derived from wheat, rye, oat, barley or spelt be replaced. In addition, substitutes for derivatives of legumes, including corn, must be used. In any case, this is a challenge for a food manufacturer, but when a typical flavor will have more than fifty flavor-chemicals, the challenge is all the greater. Flavorists charged with developing a masterpiece that will satisfy the palate while complying with Passover regulations may find their creative spirit dimmed because while almost any flavor profile is available as kosher, but the list of flavor chemicals with Passover certification is significantly smaller. This is because of the flavor causing chemicals and the diluents used to dilute the strength of the chemicals. (Flavors are often diluted to bring the usage level up to two percent because in lower levels the possibility of error is greater). As diluents are ethanol or THF (tetrahydrofuran), and a favorite source of flavoring chemicals may be fusel oil-derived items such as isoamyl alcohol (2-methyl-1-butanol) or amyl acetate (amylacetic ester, banana oil, pear oil) or propyl alcohol, which can be grain derived, the challenge is all the greater! Fusel oil and ethanol can be grain derived, but what is the concern with THF? The F stands for furan that can be derived from the husks of oats. It also can be derived from the husks of rice. This disallows furfural with its almond-like aromatic odor. The flavor chemicals that are the raw materials that serve as building blocks for the flavor compound are therefore limited. Flavorists compensate by developing somewhat simple flavors for Passover that may only have an artificial flavor-causing component without all of the side chemicals that complete the organoleptic flavor profile. The flavorists may not be proud of their handiwork, but the customer’s need for Passover certified flavors can be satisfied. If I can be of assistance to your favorite flavor company in developing Passover certifiable flavors, contact me.

OU Kosher Staff