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Passover Food Safety

Posted in Food Safety,Our Blog on April 17, 2019

Happy Spring everyone! For most of us, this past winter has been particularly brutal, with record-setting cold temperatures, snow, and now flooding. We are collectively ready for spring, and eager to get together with family and friends for upcoming special days such as Easter and Passover.

I wanted to write about this topic because I am not as aware of the food customs surrounding the celebration of Passover as I am with Easter. As with many celebrations, food is incorporated, and that of course, means being proactive with Passover Food Safety.

What Does Kosher Mean?

The word kosher means “fit or proper”, meaning that the food prepared is done so according to Jewish law. Interestingly, the Torah specifies that the only types of meat that may be consumed are cattle and game that have “cloven hooves” and “chew the cud.” For example, pigs may not be eaten because it fulfils only one of those conditions: it has split hooves but does not chew the cud. Geese, ducks, chickens, and turkeys may be eaten, but not eagles, owls, swans, pelicans, vultures, and storks.

All kosher dairy products must be obtained from kosher animals and may not contain non-kosher additives. Also, they may not include meat products or derivatives, e.g. many types of cheeses are made with animal fats. In addition to this stricture, the Torah also says, “You may not cook a young animal in the milk of its mother.” Consequently, milk and meat products may not be mixed together, including serving them together. This extends to the utensils used to serve milk and meat, which are carefully separated into “fleishig” (meat), and “milchig” (diary). Separating utensils is a marvelous idea in light of food safety best practices that advise to use separate utensils in food preparation!

Only fish with fins and scales may be consumed, such as tuna, salmon, and herring. Shellfish such as shrimp, crabs, mussels, and lobsters are strictly forbidden.

Virtually all products that are grown in soil, on bushes, or on trees are classified as kosher, but such products must be inspected for the presence of insect infestation. Additionally, laws apply to the planting and sowing of vegetables, fruits, and grains as in one may not sow two kinds of seeds on a field or in a vineyard. Fruits from trees planted within the past three years may also not be eaten.

Facts About Kosher Food

  • In the United States, kosher food is identified by certification symbols. The word “pareve” or the letter “p” adjacent to a kosher certification symbol specifies that the food product does not contain meat or dairy. “D” means it does contain dairy.
  • Almost eighty percent of individuals who consume kosher products are people who are not observing Jewish dietary laws.
  • Kosher foods are becoming increasingly popular: sales jumped sixty four percent between 2003 and 2008 to a record-setting $12.5 billion.
  • Kosher foods are popular because people appreciate the strict food preparation and inspection procedures and guidelines. Ingredients are clearly identified and labeled. As stated above, meat and dairy are never prepared or packaged together. For example, kosher products that are labeled for Passover may have baked wheat flour (matzos), but may have no other hidden forms of wheat, oats, rye, and barley, and also do not contain ingredients from corn, soy, rice, peanuts, or legumes. This is ideal for people with food allergies, or those who are on a vegetarian or vegan diet.
  • Forty percent of packaged foods in the grocery store are certified kosher and are readily available through the United States and worldwide.
  • Kosher foods are audited on a regular basis by the religious authorities that require companies to have good control of their operations.

Are There Too Many Cooks in Your Kitchen?

If you have a great big extended family, or even a small one, expectations can run high for family gatherings on holidays. I’m not suggesting that you become a “food Nazi” when it comes to your kitchen. A little prevention and supervision goes a long way to ensuring that no one becomes sick after eating a meal consisting of well-intentioned contributions from family and friends.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have some excellent recommendations and guidelines for your Passover meal. Meat and poultry, especially large cuts of such, should not be cooked on a low and slow basis in an oven below 325 degrees Fahrenheit due to the fact that food can spend too long heating up and become conducive to rapidly-multiplying bacteria, making your dish unsafe to consume.

The popular lamb shank bone is often used for Seder dinner, and the marrow inside of beef, pork, and lamb bones are safe to eat when it reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. The marrow should also rest for about three minutes.

Foods known as “chametz” are forbidden during Passover. These include wheat, oats, rye, and barley products that are leavened. Meat and poultry that consist of two or more ingredients must have a statement attesting to the ingredients. So to ensure that you’re avoiding “chametz”, check the ingredients of the products.

Very importantly, whole cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and veal should be cooked to an internal temperature (as measured by a meat thermometer) of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, allow meat to rest for three minutes or more before carving and eating. Smaller portions of ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit, and all poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you see a friendly face at your door with outstretched arms carrying some sort of prepared dish, try to discreetly usher said dish to your kitchen and place it in your oven. Hot foods should be kept hot at or above 140 degrees Fahrenheit. If the dish is cold, be sure to place it in the fridge unless it is being immediately consumed. A very good rule of thumb is to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.

A joyous and Happy Passover to you and yours from all of us at Make Food Safe! Shalom.

By: Kerry Bazany, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)