A common method for relinquishing ownership of chametz is to sell it, typically through an agent, to a gentile. The chametz remains in the house, in a closed-off area that has been rented to its new owner. After Pesach the rental period ends and the agent purchases the chametz back on behalf of the original owner.
This option is time-honored and halachically sanctioned. It is, however, a device that some people have reservations about relying on for chametz that, on a Torah level, a person is required to remove from one’s possession. According to the Magen Avraham, the Torah prohibition against owning chametz applies not only to obvious chametz such as bread, pretzels, or cookies, but to any product that contains a chametz ingredient that constitutes a kezayit within that product. Licorice, which contains a significant amount of flour, would not be sold according to this position but should, instead, be eaten before Pesach, burned, or
Crispy rice and corn flake cereals that contain malt flavoring typically do not contain a kezayit, and can be included in a sale according to this position. (It should be noted that some poskim, including Rav Hershel Schachter, argue that chametz of a similar vein, in multiple boxes, side-by-side, should be considered a single unit and therefore the chametz in each box would combine with that in other boxes to be considered a full kezayit of chametz.) There is also room to be lenient with safek chametz, i.e., a product that may not be chametz at all.
Rav Soloveitchik zt”l advised against selling chametz on Pesach but provided a parameter more lenient than that outlined above. If a product contains a chametz ingredient that is blended and no longer recognizable in the product, such as the flour in licorice, it may be included in the sale. Any obvious or recognizable chametz, such as the cookies in Cookies ‘n’ Cream ice cream, and certainly bread, pretzels, etc., should not be included. This distinction is based on the fact that some rishonim held that the Torah prohibition against owning chametz applies only to obvious, or recognizable chametz. One can rely on this lenient definition since, in any event, the sale to the gentile is halachically acceptable.
Many people who avoid selling chametz nonetheless have a family custom to include their whiskey in the sale; this is based on a lenient opinion that, through the conversion of starch to alcohol, the chametz status falls away.
The downloadable chart below is designed to help people determine which products are obvious chametz (chametz gamur; which are ta’aruvot chametz (a product whose chametz is only a fraction of the whole, and can be sold according to Rav Soloveitchik zt”l) and which are not likely to have chametz and can be included in a sale according to all positions. The designation of “not chametz” refers to products that may be owned (but not consumed) on Pesach.
Because of global variations in raw material sourcing, this chart only applies to products manufactured in the United States.