The Sceptic Blog

Random thoughts of a random chappy

Kitniot – let the buyer beware

with 6 comments

1.  From what I see in the shops before Pesach these days, I fear that many people are unwittingly eating food on Pesach that is not kosher l’Pesach according to their own family and community traditions.

2.  Kitniot – rice, beans and pulses – are not chametz.  But the centuries-old ashkenazi minhag is not to eat them on Pesach, for any one of a number of possible reasons.  The sepharadi minhag has always been to allow kitniot on Pesach, and for them they are fully kosher l’Pesach.

3.  An increasing number of foods manufactured for Pesach in Israel contain kitniot, to accommodate the sepharadi majority.  Even surprising things – ice-cream, mayonnaise, ketchup – routinely contain kitniot nowadays.  But the fact is mentioned on the label only in very small Hebrew letters that can be difficult to find and decipher even for those who know what they are looking for.

4.  The shops in London clearly have a duty to put up large notices warning the majority ashkenazi population in this country to watch out for kitniot; and they would do well to label each product on the shelves as kitniot-free or containing kitniot.  I encourage everyone to bring gentle, polite and friendly pressure on the shop-keepers to do this for us.

5.  Until they do, I am worried that many people who want to keep Pesach properly but are not well-versed in these issues and may not be able to read Hebrew are likely unwittingly to bring into their houses for Pesach use products which they would not want to use if they knew the full story.

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Written by Daniel Greenberg

March 26, 2008 at 9:49 am

6 Responses

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  1. Two years ago on Motzoi Pessach, I was checking the ingredients of a product that he had bought over Pesach but had not used. The messege “Ruk Le’ochlei Kitniot” (only for those who eat pulses i.e. Sefardim) was written in the sort of “dot” type usually reserved for best before dates and the like, which made it very difficult to read. I immediately wrote a letter to the Jewish Tribune – which they published – that there is here a threefold responsibility.
    1. The manufacturers must state in the clearest terms that the goods include Kitniot – both in Hebrew AND IN ENGLISH. In fact they must state “Only for Sefardim” or something similar as the average person in the street does not understand the hebrew and can easily be caught out.
    2. The shop keepers have a duty to mark the shelves of kitniot products that they are not for Ashkenazim.
    3. Individuals must be educated to knwo what to look for. It is all very well purchasing goods with the best Hecsherim if, at the same time, one goes against one’s custom and eats Kitniot products.
    In my view the no. 1 responsibility lies with the shop keepers. They are all prepared to take our money. Let them give something back at the same time

    Mr Secretary

    March 26, 2008 at 2:08 pm

  2. This phenomenon is not isolated to Kitnios but is also found with Cholov Stam and Avakas Cholov Stam in products used the whole year round.

    I agree that shops, as the final line of defense, should take the initiative to ensure that buyers are aware of hidden messages on the labels but the responsibility for the clarity of the label needs to be shared by the manufacturers and whoever is granting the Hechsher.

    Daniel Ehreich

    March 26, 2008 at 2:22 pm

  3. The same applies to products with less than well-known or recognisable hechsherim. There are shops in London (and probably elsewhere) which sell products with hechsherim that, put simply, are not well known or recognised, or that people simply have not heard of. Every product, even if it has a recognisable label like paskez and is found in a kosher shop should be carefully checked to ensure that it has a hechsher that is known to be reliable.

    As an aside- Kosher Kingdom in Golders Green is KLBD Certified and every product sold there has a hechsher which the LBD is happy with.

    Eli Coten

    March 29, 2008 at 11:43 pm

  4. I went to Kosher Kingdom this morning to show someone around different hechsherim. I found packets of Israeli schwarma with a white KLBD sticker on top of the packet, but in tiny letters around the hechsher it says in Ivrit “only for those who eat kitniot”. I told a very nice lady who looked as though she was in charge, and she immediately came and put a pre-prepared label on the shelf saying Contains Kitniot. I don’t think the London Beth Din should add their white stickers to products without including a reference to whether or not the product includes kitniot: the London Beth Din is working for a majority-ashkenazi clientele.

    Daniel Greenberg

    March 30, 2008 at 10:21 am

  5. I have double checked, and anything in Kosher Kingdom that contains Kitniyot should be in a separate section, on a clearly marked shelf.

    It could be that just that the particular product you saw came in after the shomer had already been to check. The shomer in question will be notified of this.

    People who notice any problem of this or any other nature could, in the first instance, contact the London Beth Din and notify them, who will be able to advise of the situation and deal with it appropriately.

    Eli Coten

    April 3, 2008 at 12:47 pm

  6. Excellent, Eli, many thanks. But let’s face it, if it’s a choice between telephoning the Beth Din and writing a blog post …

    Daniel Greenberg

    April 3, 2008 at 1:58 pm


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