As Pesach approaches the Kosher consumer is faced with the annual quuery: what can be bought this year without special Kosher L'Pesach certification? There was a time when consumers as well as certifiers were certain that one could purchase sealed containers of pure ground spices or dried herbs for Passover, provided they had year-round Kosher certification. This mindset even reached a point where dried fruit got thrown into the mix, being regarded as Kosher L'Pesach without special certification. It was the commonly held view that pure green or white tea also enjoyed this status.
Over time people have come to realize that not everything is as pure as the label claims. Manufacturers are not always required by law to list processing aids, and as a result these and many other ingredients may be added to the product. There are many unlisted additives, emulsifiers, or anti-caking agents that aren't Kosher L'Pesach. In addition, many times an inherently Kosher L'Pesach ingredient is packaged or processed on Chometz equipment that would render it unfit for Passover use.
Due to the keen eye of our dedicated Mashgiach Rabbi Issac Yagod, we became aware that green or white tea was found to have trace amounts of gluten, or in other words: Chometz. After thoroughly researching the topic, it became apparent that product coming from China in particular, the world's main source of green & white tea, may be contaminated.
In speaking with experts in the field, it seems there are a few scenarios that resulted in the tea having gluten content. Among them are the following two issues of note:
- Chometz was processed or packaged on the same equipment as the tea.
- The producers deliberately doused the tea leaves with a starch solution to enhance the drying process or to serve as an anti-caking agent.
We randomly chose samples from major brands in the United States and sent them to laboratory to be tested for gluten. The shocking results - half of the samples from different national brands contained gluten.
While this does indicate a reasonable chance of contamination, since the amounts of gluten detected were miniscule from a Halachic perspective, the tea may still be permissible for consumption during Pesach because it is rendered insignificant due to the concept of Bitul (Halachic nullification).
King Solomon says: That which has been is that which shall be, and that which has been done is that which shall be done; and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing whereof it is said: 'See, this is new'?--it hath been already, in the ages which were before us. (Ecclesiastics 1:9-10)
This holds true for all these issues of Chometz contamination, across many varieties of seemingly innocuous ingredients. In particular in our case of tea, there is mention of concern by many a Responsa, some prohibiting it, others allowing it.
As a leading Kashrus agency, the KVH requires lab tests, and extensive tracing of the teas origins back to the source before granting a stamp of approval as Kosher L'Pesach on green and white teas.
With this recent discovery in mind, the Kosher Consumer should seek guidance on this matter from their family or community Rabbi, as with all other personal Kashrus standards.