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In Melbourne Shabbat begins Fri 5 May 2017 05:10 PM and ends Sat 29 Apr 2017 06:16 PM
כ"ג אדר ה' אלפים תשס"ט
From the day after Purim, the phones start to ring off the hook with questions about Pesach – ‘which plastic plates can be bought?, ‘what’s the deal about cosmetics?’, ‘can I feed my budgie its normal feed?’. Each year the questions seem to get more complicated, particularly with the increase in allergens and the complexities of modern food production.
What confuses issues is that companies do vary the way they make things and the variations can be within the same company depending on the country where a product is made.
For example, up until last year, Bonjella, a popular medication for sore teeth and gums, was approved for Pesach. Last year we were advised that the formulation had changed and that it could no longer be included.
Similarly, we have consumers who ask why Colgate toothpaste is okay in the US and not in Australia. The answer is that the ingredients for products made locally are sourced from chametz where the same ingredients in North America may be sourced from kitniyot.
So how does a Pesach Guide come into existence?
About 3 months before Purim, the Rabbinic Board and chemists meet to determine the policies for Pesach – which types of medicines, cosmetics, cleaning products etc. will be acceptable for Pesach without investigation and which will require some basic ingredient checking.
In addition, the Rabbis will determine which products can be approved for Pesach use even if not formally certified for Pesach. The decision is based on information from past years and from discussions with overseas authorities.
Based on these decisions, we write to the relevant pharmaceutical and cosmetics
manufacturers (around 50 companies) requesting information. Often, this information is not available as the product is made in Europe, Africa or America. For anyone in the food trade, getting feedback is difficult at the best of times so there are frequent follow ups with companies.
A few weeks before Purim the Pesach Guide begins to take shape with the main ‘challenge’ that information concerning some products becomes available only after Purim. For medications and cosmetics made in America we are indebted to Rabbi Gershon Bess from Kollel-Los Angeles who provides a comprehensive list of medicines and cosmetics. For Europe, Rabbi A Adler from Gateshead is an invaluable resource.
Many of the general rulings come from discussions with the Orthodox Union, the Chicago Rabbinical Council and the Association of Kashrus Organisations. The Kashrut Authority in NSW provides information on disposable tableware as well as some dairy baby products and sugar.
We attempt to act as soon as possible: we uploaded the Kosher Australia Pesach Guide on 18/3/09 at 5pm after receiving the information from Rabbis Adler and Bess earlier that day. Information from the Beth Din of Johannesburg came through on 17/3 (listing for permissible cat and dog food which we checked with pet stores and vets).
All up, the production of the Pesach Guide takes approximately 300 man hours and happens while we are preparing the main Kosher Food Guide and continuing with our ongoing supervision at 300+ (and increasing) manufacturers.
No wonder I get only a few hours sleep each night!
If you wish to download an advance copy of the Pesach guide, please visit www.kosher.org.au and click on the ‘Pesach 2009’ button. You will need to have Acrobat Reader™ v9 or above to read the file.