Monday, March 12, 2012

Quinoa for Pesach: Update from the CRC

First: This past week we held a Motzaei Shabbos panel discussion on "Igniting Spiritual Passion" in ourselves and in our children. Panelists were [in order of presentation] Rav Herschel Schachter, Rabbi Kenneth Brander, Dr. Rona Novick, YU President Richard Joel, and me. [Yes, I know that group is out of my league. I was just glad to have a good seat from which to listen.] You can find the audio here; the video should be on-line at Koshertube soon. Enjoy!
Next: Since we have discussed the status of quinoa on Pesach here before, here's an important update from the CRC, working in tandem with the OU and the Star-K:

February 28, 2012

In 2007 HaRav Gedalia Dov Schwartz, Shlit”a, the Av Beis Din of the Chicago Rabbinical Council, issued a p’sak that quinoa is not considered kitniyos and therefore may be used on Pesach. Most of the quinoa comes from Peru and Bolivia and has been grown in areas where other (problematic for Pesach) grains were generally not grown. However, as the popularity of quinoa has risen, this is no longer the absolute case. This was confirmed this year by a Star-K mashgiach who visited Bolivia and found that barley does indeed grow in those areas. It was also recently discovered that some farmers cover their quinoa with barley and/or oats to keep the birds from eating the quinoa while it dries. Finally, there is a concern that the sacks used to transfer the quinoa may have been previously used to hold barley or oats.

We have, therefore, determined that the only way to allow quinoa for use on Pesach is to track the quinoa from certain farms that are free from the above concerns. The Star-K spearheaded this endeavor and sent a mashgiach to find such a farm. While they were successful in their search, it proved to be challenging from a practical point of view, as the company visited generally sells their products in large quantities. The Star-K has now worked with other companies to pack the usable quinoa into smaller packages, and the following three options have been approved for Pesach quinoa consumption:

Andean Naturals with a lot code beginning SCI-JI sold only in 1,000 lb increments. The contact information is:

Sergio Nuñez de Arco; Andean Naturals; Organic Quinoa and Quinoa-based Ingredients
Brought to you by Specialty Commodities, Inc.
Toll Free (888) 547-9777 x 711

Andean Naturals with a lot code beginning SCI-JI sold in wholesale 25 lb bags. The contact information is:

Tania Petricevic;
194 Orange St. Oakland, CA 94610
Sales Support: (914)220-2974; Customer Service: (954)336-1743
Hours of Operation M-F (PST) 10:00am-4:00pm

Quinoa Corp, Ancient Harvest brand, lot code 3.01.14 k, sold in small retail 12 oz boxes. When ordering directly from them, mention that you want the Passover run.; (310) 217-8125

It is important to note that even the quinoa from the above approved sources should be carefully checked before Pesach for any foreign matter before use. This can be done by spreading the quinoa out on a plate and carefully checking there are no other grains or foreign matter mixed in.

The cRc would like to thank Rabbi Zvi Goldberg of the Star-K and Rabbi Reuven Nathanson of the OU for their help on researching this issue.


  1. does this mean that the quinoa people ate last year may have contained chametz?

  2. In Israel, where Quinoa has a hechsher for pesach (for sefardim), would that not have these concerns?

  3. Russell-
    Possible, but I think doubtful, particularly for those who used Ancient Harvest. This seems more to be a lechatchilah/bedieved concern, particularly as those who ate it checked it well. (It's very, very hard to miss a non-quinoa particle among quinoa.)

    Interesting; depends on whether they are checking the farms, I suppose.

  4. Please send this post to KCC, thanks.

  5. "It is important to note that even the quinoa from the above approved sources should be carefully checked before Pesach for any foreign matter before use. This can be done by spreading the quinoa out on a plate and carefully checking there are no other grains or foreign matter mixed in."
    If this is the case, what is the point in having "approved" quinoa? Why would something that potentially contains hametz be called a Pesach run"?

    What is the practical difference in checking approved quinoa and checking unapproved quinoa?

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. "Igniting Spiritual Passion"-in theory I think Rebbi Nachman does this well. But i hesitate to mention this because I can see that it sometimes backfires. In fact just yesterday I had a discussion with a descendant of Reb Natan about the general state of affairs in Breslov. I brought up some problems. And this fellow gave me a good answer that the problems don't really relate to Rebbi Nachman at all but are characteristic of Hasidut.
    At any rate, we can see that if you want to lite someones fuse in spirituality, just give them a book of Rebbi Nachman and then BAMM!

  8. If the quinoa has to be checked anyway, then why do we need separate bags that are "KP?" Simply to pay the premium?

  9. Anonymous 2:23 AM, Tamar-
    I can see two concerns, which would be reduced by the "Pesach Run":
    1. If oats are mixed in, and they get wet, and one only finds them on Pesach, then one will have violated Pesach by owning chametz on Pesach.
    2. If one misses seeing the moistened oats and eats them, one will then have eaten chametz.

  10. "1. If oats are mixed in, and they get wet, and one only finds them on Pesach, then one will have violated Pesach by owning chametz on Pesach."

    Since you said "one only finds them on Pesah", I'm assuming you mean that they got wet before Pesah, in which case (as is well known)the Hametz is batel b'rov and one has not violated the prohibition of owning Hametz. Not only that, since it is batel one could actually eat the quinoa during Pesach (Rosh - Sefer Mitzvot Gadol, Shulchan Aruch - Orach Chayim 447:2)

    Even if the quinoa contained a grain that became hametz during Pesach, the ta'arovet should simply be destroyed(Ramah, Orach Chayim 447:1), but one would not, as you have suggested, be liable for owning hametz. Not only that, if for some reason it was overlooked or not destroyed, it may be eaten after Pesach, since it is not actual Hametz, but a ta'arovet (Bavli - Pesachim 30a, Rambam - hametz umatzah, halakha 5).

    "2. If one misses seeing the moistened oats and eats them, one will then have eaten chametz."

    This is why we check our foods. You yourself said that the even the pesach run has to be checked at home anyway.

    And even though the hametz is not batel during Pesach and the ta'arovet can never be permitted during the chag, it is still a ta'arovet and not hametz mamash. There is no issur karet, and lashes from the Torah are only given if one ate a k'zayit of of actual hametz while consuming the ta'arovet. Anything less than that is makkot mardut, and then only if it was done b'meizid.

    That makes this no greater a risk than taking the chance that one would miss a bug in one's rice, flour, fruit etc., at any other time during the year. I don't see anyone suggesting anything above and beyond simply checking these items thoroughly.

    As an aside, an examination of the relevant Gemara in Masechet Hallah Yerushalmi makes it fairly clear that oats are not shiboleth shual, not chameshet haminim and can neither become hametz or be used to fulfill the commandment of Matzah. See also Rambam on Mishnah Kilayim as well as all botanical and historical evidence. Oats were not grown for human consumption until the middle ages in Europe, and to this day they can't be grown as a crop in eretz Yisrael.

    Out of respect to the tzibbur, I wouldn't recommend purposely eating them during Pesach. But neither would I declare someone liable for eating hametz if they ate a ta'arovet b'shogeg.

  11. Rabbi, I may very well be mistaken as my memory is spotty, but hadn't you originally written that it would be "almost impossible" to miss a foreign grain while sifting through quinoa? I do not see that line in your blog entry now. As someone who regularly prepares grains for my family, I can attest to the fact that oats and barley (even pearl barley) bear distinctive shapes very different from the tiny quinoa granules.

  12. Hello Reb Yoel,

    Thanks for writing; a few points, written somewhat quickly in the interest of time:

    1. Re - Bitul pre-Pesach -
    A. That does not work where the mixture is intentional; see the Beit Yosef there citing Rabbeinu Yerucham. This is also brought in Mishneh Berurah 447:14.
    B. The statement that one may eat it during Pesach is incorrect; see Mishneh Berurah 447:16, אך צריך לאכלו קודם הפסח.
    C. The fact that it may be eaten post-Pesach as taarovet is irrelevant; that is bedieved.

    2. Re: "That is why we check our foods"-
    If we believed in this as a halachic argument, we would also say ביטול בעלמא סגי and there would be no bedikah. We don't.
    As for your point about bugs and so on, see Tosafot Pesachim 2; the whole concept of חומרא דחמץ is unique.

    3. Re: "You yourself said that we must check"-
    Please note that the post was, as stated at the outset, a citation from the CRC. I neither work for them nor have membership with them.

    4. Re: Oats-
    Yes, I am very familiar with Yehuda Feliks's work in this regard. Nonetheless, I have never heard of a posek - beyond the odd story about Rav Shlomo Zalman, with which you are certainly familiar - who sided with him. Do you recite Borei Pri ha'Adamah on oatmeal?

  13. Tamar-
    Your memory is close; that was my note in Comment #3, although I did not use the word "impossible".

    In any case - See my #2 in my response to Yoel Keren.

  14. IIRC with something like enriched rice, you could look over every grain and see nothing but rice, but it's been sprayed with a vitamin solution that may have contained chametz.

    Are there (plausible) concerns now for chametz traces on the quinoa that aren't visible to the naked eye? (I don't know how far the manufacturers go to ensure they're gluten-free, or how minute those traces would be; and even so, maybe they use gluten-free oats ...)

  15. R. Torczyner,

    Both R. Yitzhak Abadi and R. David bar-Hayim (from Machon Shiloh) hold that you say "ha-adamah" on oats; For R. Abadi, see, In addition, a student of R. Jeremy Wieder at YU informs me that he holds oats are ha-adamah le-halachah.

  16. Joseph-
    Interesting... but until I hear from a mainstream Ashkenazi posek that he recommends ha'Adamah, I'll stick with mezonot.
    Also, the evidence is not as compelling as some make it out to be. For example, Mordechai Kislev has debunked the claim that oats were unknown in the ancient world. (Science, 2006)

  17. Not trying to convince you either way, just saying it's more mainstream than you might think; I've no idea which opinion is more historically accurate either. But it is interesting when assumptions are questioned in pursuit of truth.

  18. Thanks for posting the link to the audio...looking forward to listening.

    We tried some a few months reminded me of something the would have eaten on Skylab.

  19. 1. Re - Bitul pre-Pesach -
    A. Pesah or no,I would never have suggested being mevatel an issur lehathilah. That, of course, is never permitted and I didn't get from you that you were speaking of an intentional mixture when you stated "If oats are mixed in, and they get wet, and one only finds them on Pesach, then one will have violated Pesach by owning chametz on Pesach".

    B. This is an innovative stricture on the part of the MB. His view is not shared by the Rosh or any other Ashkenazi Rishon that I am aware of (please correct me if I'm wrong there). In fact, this is the very reason why Ashkenazim began to make hard matzah. Unlike Teimanim and other Mizrahi Jews who bake matzah during the hag, Ashkenazim were hoshesh for creating hametz or a ta'aroveth during Pesah. They began baking all their matzah before Pesah so that any safek of hametz would still be batel and they could consume it without fear. Only hard matzah will keep when pre-baked and thus we have today's cracker matzah.

    C. Actually, this is quite relevant. It may be eaten post Pesah because, contrary to your earlier suggestion, one could not be guilty of owning hametz. If a ta'aroveth created before Pesah were in fact hametz, one would not be allowed to eat it after Pesah. The fact that it can be eaten after Pesah, should be a clear demonstration that it cannot make one liable for owning hametz.

    2. Since I am saying that such fine grained foods need a bedikah at all times, I don't see how you could make that comparison. My point is that we can't rely on the "pesah run" anyway. The stuff has to be checked thoroughly. But to equate ta'aroveth hametz to hametz mamash and all of the associated special humroth that come with it, is innacurate.

    3. Point taken, but my objection to the CRC statement relates directly to the 2 concerns you posted yesterday. Both of those concerns are valid. I am only attempting to demonstrate that the CRC's solution doesn't lessen those concerns in any significant way.

    When one buys Pesah rice in Israel. it is pre-checked. If the CRC were offering a solution like this, it would probably be worth the extra expense.

    4. I myself am unfamiliar with Yehuda Feliks or his work. I do recite Borei Pri ha'Adamah on oatmeal.

    If you'd like to see an authoritative Ashkenazi Posek disqualify oats as hamesheth haminim, see Rav Sternbach in Teshuvot Vehanhagot 1:302 and the responsa of the Yad Chanoch, 22. I understand that Rav Sternbuch may have recently withdrawn his psaq under pressure. I'm not surprised.

    I appreciate you taking the time to clarify.

    Kol tuv,


  20. Just to clarify one more thing; The claim was not that oats were unknown in the ancient world.

    Rather, what is claimed is that they were not cultivated as human food. They were first cultivated as animal fodder. And then much later cultivated as human food in the cold European climate.

    I fail to see how a plant that has never been, and still can't be grown as an effective crop in Eretz Yisrael is supposed to be one of the Hamesheth Haminim defined by the Mishnah. It's like saying that Hashem transported Moshe to Calabria to show him the true Ethrog.

  21. Reb Yoel-
    1A -
    It is intentional; the practice they are discussing, as described by the CRC in the original post, is covering the quinoa with barley or oats.

    1B -
    The Mishneh Berurah is applying the principle identified by the Rama (and noted by the Mechaber) in Orach Chaim 447:4.

    1C -
    See Magen Avraham 447:11. He notes the Rosh's position, but disagrees l'halachah other than in a case of hefsed.

    2. For the equation of taarovet with chametz mamash, see the Magen Avraham I cited in 1C.

    4. That wasn't Rav Shternbuch's position; he only wrote that according to those who believe oats are not of the 5 (and he specified לדידיה), one could not use oat matzah. He never ruled that oats would not become chametz. Here is the actual text:
    ולענין עצם הבעיה של אכילת מצה למי שאסור לו חטים, שמעתי שאופין היום במיוחד מצות שמורה משבולת שועל (קווקער) ויוצאין בזה שזהו מחמש מינים, ובקובץ "שערי ציון" (אלול תשמ"ח) הוכיח שהקווקער שלנו אינו השבולת שועל שהרי הקווקער אינו מחמיץ כלל, וטועים העולם שקווקער הוא מחמשת מינים, ואם כן לדידיה אין יוצאין בזה ידי חובת מצה, וצריך לחפש מין אחר שלא יזיק.
    What you may have heard of was the story that Rav Shlomo Zalman changed his berachah to Ha'Adamah for a while, until Rav Elyashiv rebuked him and he changed it back.

    Also, Kislev's point is that they were known and grown as animal food. But in any case, as a general rule, it's dangerous to rely on claims that agricultural products weren't around in those days; new discoveries are changing that landscape all the time. Witness those who wanted to translate תפוח in Tanach as 'quince' for a long time, until archaeologists discovered ancient apple orchards in Israel in the 1950's.

  22. Why can't I find KFP quinoa in Israel? Where should I be looking? And why would it only be aproved for Sephardim?

  23. Yosefa-
    Sorry; I don't know anything about availability in Israel.

  24. Hi, please forgive my beating on this issue some more, but if I already own two bags of quinoa from other sources are you/the kashrut organizations suggesting I cannot use them even after a close visual inspection? Thank you!

  25. Hello David,

    No problem, but I am not suggesting anything; I would recommend contacting the CRC directly with this question. (Of course, I'd be glad to hear the answer!)

  26. I spoke with a very well regarded Rav in the area of kashrus and he agreed that if you are checking the quinoa (which he said you should do even for the Star-K Pesach boxes) there is no need for a special Pesach run. Thus, I may use my already bought quinoa so long as I check it.

    Yay, sanity prevails.

    Gut yom tov and thank you!