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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Ask The Rabbi- Passover Status of "Gluten Free" Foods

Rabbi Dovid Cohen
Rabbinic Administrator cRc Kosher

Passover Status of Gluten Free Foods

Question:  Can I assume that all gluten free foods are chometz free and permissible on Passover?   

Answer:  At first glance it would seem that the answer to your question would be yes. The reality is much more complicated. Just because an item is labeled gluten free does not mean it is suitable for Passover. Gluten free oats could be mixed with water and become chametz. Also, trace amounts of gluten are permitted by the FDA on a product that is labeled gluten free. While these trace amounts may/or may not pose a health risk they do create a chametz risk. A gluten free product without reliable Kosher for Passover supervision may be produced on hot, shared equipment used for chametz. An unsupervised gluten free product could also come into contact with chametz during processing or transit. Lastly, corn, rice, and beans are all gluten free but are not eaten by Ashkenazic Jews due to the custom of abstaining from kitniyos. These issues are not hypothetical but factual accounts from Mashgichim (kosher rabbinical supervisors) overseeing "gluten free" products.

Perhaps the most fundamental reason for not relying on gluten free status to be Passover approved is that the standards for gluten free and chametz free are not the same. The term gluten is used to refer to specific proteins (gliadin, hordein, and secalin) found in certain grains and any item free of those proteins is labeled gluten free. The protein is not the only part of the grain, there's also the starch component.  The starch part of the grain may be gluten free but it is chametz!An example of a gluten free chometzdik product is non-kosher for Passover vinegar. In some countries wheat starch which is converted into glucose which then becomes alcohol and finally ferments into vinegar may be labeled “gluten free” yet the product is clearly not suitable for Pesach.  A real-life example of this is Benefiber powder which is made of pure wheat dextrin and is chametz but since it is free of wheat protein it is labeled as being gluten-free (see  Similarly, Scotch whisky is made of malted barley and is surely chametz, yet the Scotch Whisky Association proudly reports that it is acceptable for coeliacs (the English spelling of celiac) (see question #90 at  These examples reflect the fact that the standard for gluten-free is not the same as the halacha’s (Jewish Law's)standard of chametz-free. Accordingly, we recommend that people wishing to purchase food for Pesach check that the item is certified as being kosher for Pesach and not merely rely on a company’s gluten-free claim.

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  1. I just checked with a local Chabad Rabbi who runs a kosher deli in Des Moines, Iowa, about some gluten-free matzah he had. It's kosher for Pesach, but since it can't rise without the gluten, I asked him to check (this conversation was over the phone) if it were kosher for mitzvat matzah. He did, and in fact it is not -- eating it does not violate the rules for chametz, but one cannot discharge one's obligation to eat matzah at the Seder with it.

    It's interesting -- unless there's the risk of the flour/dough becoming chametz, it's not suitable as matzah. In the same way, Gd took the risk of creating us with free will, knowing we might sin, but in return He got a world where we can _voluntarily_ serve Gd and thereby become holy people. A robot can't become holy.

    1. Thanks for your comments Bob. Let's use our free will to make wise choices both for our bodies and souls. Best Wishes for a Joyous Passover!

  2. Dear Rabbi Cohen
    why would traces of gluten be an issue? would'nt taht be batul bishishim? and also why woudn't you say stam kelim aino ben yoma? and therefor no concern to the equipment?