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Is Quinoa Kosher for Passover?

Is Quinoa Kosher for Passover?

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During the holiday of Passover, the Torah prohibits us from owning or consuming any foods which are chametz or which contain it. Chametz is any food product made of wheat, barley, rye, oats or spelt, or their derivatives, which has leavened (risen) or fermented. Our sages have determined that flour from any of these five grains that comes into contact with water or moisture will leaven unless fully baked within eighteen minutes.

Quinoa is not one of these grains, nor is it related to any of these grains, and is therefore not considered chametz. (Botanically, it is a member of the goosefoot family, which includes beets and spinach.)

Nevertheless, there are two factors which must be taken into consideration with regards to consuming quinoa on Passover:

1) Due to the gravity of the prohibition against chametz, the medieval Ashkenazic rabbis forbade the consumption of kitniyot (lit., “legumes”) on Passover, since they can be confused with the forbidden grains. This includes (but is not limited to): rice, corn, soybeans, stringbeans, peas, lentils, peanuts, mustard, sesame and poppy seeds. This ban was accepted as law by Ashkenazic Jewry.

Since many of the concerns that led to the ban on legumes would apply to quinoa as well, some halachic authorities have suggested that quinoa also be prohibited for Ashkenazic Jews as kitniyot. However, the position of the OU, CRC (Chicago Rabbinical Council) and Star-K, leaders in kashrut supervision, is that quinoa need not be added to the banned list.

2) Quinoa is often grown in close proximity to grains which can become chametz, such as barley. (Incidentally, this is one of the reasons given for the original kitniyot ban mentioned above.1) It is also often processed in the same factories as other grains, and the machines may not be adequately cleaned between runs of grain products and quinoa; both of these factors lead to a risk of chametz traces being found in the quinoa. Furthermore, the leading kashrut agencies have recently discovered that some farmers cover their quinoa with barley and/or oats to keep the birds from eating the quinoa while it dries, creating a concern that there may be grain kernels within the packaged quinoa. Finally, the sacks used to transport quinoa may have been previously used to hold barley or oats, which again raises the same concern.

These concerns can be mitigated through proper supervision.

In light of the above, if you are of Ashkenazic descent and therefore bound by the prohibition of consuming kitniyot on Passover, you should consult with your community rabbi as to whether to treat quinoa as kitniyot or not. And whether you are Ashkenazic or Sephardic, any quinoa would require kosher for Passover certification to ensure that it was carefully kept from contact with barley or other grains (covering all of the various scenarios described above in point 2).

Experts in kosher supervision have traveled to the quinoa plants and farms in Bolivia, and the supervising agencies listed above have determined that for the Passover season of 2014 the following sources of quinoa are approved, when bearing the OU-P or Star-K-P symbol (the P indicating that it is kosher for Passover). Only those retail packages that actually bear kosher for Passover symbols are from the runs of production which were supervised and approved for Passover use; all other packages, even those packed by the same manufacturer, are not recommended.

Goolbaum’s Quinoa

Only when bearing OU-P certification

Pereg Quinoa

Only when bearing OU-P certification

Setton Farms (12-oz. containers)

Only when bearing Star-K-P certification.

Natural Earth Products (16-oz. boxes)

Only when bearing Star-K-P certification.

Even when buying from approved sources, it may be advisable to check the quinoa before Passover for any foreign matter (such as barley) before use, by placing the quinoa on a plate and looking through the grains.

Have a happy and kosher Pesach!

Rabbi Baruch S. Davidson

P.S.: It should be noted that “Quinoa Corp.—Ancient Harvest Brand,” which was certified kosher for Passover in previous years, did not do a Passover-exclusive run of production for 2014, and is therefore not certified kosher for Passover. If you have quinoa with certification left over last year, it may still be used this year as well. However, make sure that it is not infested with insects.

FOOTNOTES
1. Pri Chadash, Orach Chaim 453:1.
Rabbi Baruch S. Davidson is a member of the Chabad.org Ask the Rabbi team.
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Discussion (28)
March 27, 2014
The minute Hametz in an item when mixed BEFORE Pesach is nullified in the 1 in 60 rule. This does not apply on Pesach. This is the reason many Sephardic rabbis AND others allow frozen vegetables, for example, even when processed on the same equipment as pasta. The halachot for Sephardim regarding Pesach is different. For the Sephardim, any food which is expected to be free of Hametz may be considered kosher for Passover where the Ashkenazim may insist that all foods be watched in order to be kosher for Passover. This is not to say that certification is not necessary and preferred but there is a difference in the Halacha.
Albert
March 27, 2014
In response to Haskel
You said, "Secondly, I don't think that quinoa can be compared to milk...we are stringent about consuming even the most minute amount of chametz, even if it is smaller than the traces which could be cause of an allergic reaction."

Actually, you are arguing against your own position with this statement. You regularly breathe in small quantities of airborne chametz during Passover that are nonetheless sufficient to cause allergic reactions in those with sensitivities (peanut allergies, for example.) Since there is no requirement to avoid breathing in chametz during Passover (for example, by wearing masks or avoiding leaving your home), it is obviously understood that such a small amount of chametz is tolerated. The amount of chametz in gluten-free quinoa is even smaller than this.
Anonymous
March 26, 2014
I have previously argued that the Ashkenazim can and should adopt the Sephardic minhag of eating kitniyot on Pesach. The custom was implemented because of the possible confusion with actual Hametz and Kitniyot. For example, a sack of rice would be near a sack of wheat so there was a real possibility of mixing of actual grain biblically prohibited and non-Hametz grains. These issues are not relevant today. It was imposed because of the real possibility of eating Hametz. As to Kitniyot flour looking like Hametz flour, how about Passover bagels and the abundance of cakes that look no different from year round cakes. If Ashkenazim want to follow Beit Yosef who permits kitniyot on Pesah it would be no different then Sephardim who adopt the Ashkenazaic minhag which at the end of the day is a stringency.
Albert
Plainview
March 26, 2014
repeating last year's comment
Morah,

Looking again at the Shulchan Aruch--which no one would doubt was the most historically important and authoritative halachic synthesis after the works of Rashi and Rambam--I have to stand again by my comment of last year regarding the dubious nature of upholding the restrictive Ashkenazic minhag, which serves only to divide Jews at a time of increasing need for unity and strengthening universal halachic observance.

Can anyone seriously claim that those of the Sephardi tradition gain less from scrupulous observance of Pesach than Ashkenazim? Should there really be negative halachic consequences to an Askenazic Jew adopting the customs of the Rambam? This is not to say that the Rema or other sages were "narrow minded". But it does beg many questions--and we should be careful not to answer them reflexively. As a friend once said to me, "Are you going to merely listen to the rebbe, or are you going to read the Shulchan Aruch?"

Chag Kasher v'Sameach
Howard
New York
March 26, 2014
Re: Morah
Are you saying that "learned and responsible people" can't make mistakes? Did these same learned people know that in 2014 we would be eating pre-packaged cakes on Passover that can be confused with Chametz cakes much more readily than kitnyiot can be confused with flour?

Anonymous
March 25, 2014
Re: Anonymous
a) I don't think that Kalman is disagreeing with you about eating quinoa that has supervision to prevent against actual Chametz being mixed in.

b) The men who instituted the ban on consuming kitniyot, whose opinion was accepted by all Ashkenazi Jewry, were very learned and responsible people, and may not have been as narrow sighted as you think they are.
Morah
Teaneck
March 25, 2014
Re: Gluten Free
David,

Firstly, you should be aware that buying milk without certification is not "standard Jewish practice", and those who don't are merely "insisting on Chalav Yisrael". In fact, the opposite is true. Standard observance of Jewish law requires that one not buy milk that was not supervised by a Jew from the time of its milking. Where supervised milk is unavailable, some Rabbinic authorities permit government inspection as sufficient assurance in the United States, where there are FDA regulations and regulators, not just "fear of lawsuit". All agree, however, that actual supervision is preferable.

Secondly, I don't think that quinoa can be compared to milk. A) There are no said regulations on gluten-free, and B) we are stringent about consuming even the most minute amount of chametz, even if it is smaller than the traces which could be cause of an allergic reaction.
Haskel
NYC
March 23, 2014
Gluten Free Quinoa?
If Quinoa is certified as being gluten free, might it be Kosher for Passover by the same logic that we may drink regular milk without a hechscher? (Obviously, those who insist on Cholov Yisrael would disagree.) Any company selling certified gluten-free quinoa contaminated with even minute amounts of chametz would open themselves to a very expensive lawsuit should a person with a gluten intolerance happen to consume it.
David
Amherst, MA
March 20, 2014
In response to Kalman:
You are obviously not a vegan. I am, and I can tell you that I practically starve myself during Passover because there are so few protein sources that I can eat. Beans, brown rice, peanuts and tofu--four of my main food sources and none of which were originally prohibited in the torah--are forbidden to me through man's interpretation of G-od's laws. Quinoa is an absolute necessity for me during Passover for a protein source, and since it can be purchased with a reliable Hescher, it is, and should be, allowed.

Passover was meant to be a time of joy and remembrance. The silly man-made prohibition on kitnyiot is forcing our attention away from G-od and onto mundane discussions such as whether or not we can eat green beans.
Anonymous
April 3, 2013
again on kitniyot
The prohibition against chametz in the Torah is karet, the cutting off of one's soul from the Jewish people. That certainly makes this mitzvah stand out in terms of the consequences of violation, and strongly reinforces the centrality of Pesach and the means of its proper observance. Thus, the prohibition against chametz is absolute--there is no liturgical exemption regarding minute quantities or other "safe harbors".

It is puzzling, therefore, that some suggest that there are halachic consequences to violating the minchag of kitniyot--when it is almost universally agreed that a plate that has been used for, say, rice on Pesach by a sepharad can also be used by an Ashkenazi for other non-chametz foods. Perhaps this leniency is a tacit acknowledgement that the United States, known to be settled largely by sephardim until 150 years ago, may really have a minchag eretz that does not support the imposition of our largely Eastern European traditions.
Howard
New York
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