HICKSVILLE, N.Y. (AP) — On a food production floor on Long Island, steam rises from a blue metal barrel filled with scalding water for dipping cooking implements, and a worker runs boiling water through and over machinery. Zip ties are affixed to pipes and valves to avoid unwanted contaminants.
Overseeing and inspecting it all, clad in rubber gloves and blue surgical masks with netting covering their hair and beards, are two rabbis tasked with ensuring that the production line and foods made here meet the strict kosher requirements of Passover.
The springtime holiday celebrates the Jewish people’s liberation from slavery, when, as described in the Old Testament, they did not have time even to let bread leaven before rushing into the desert during their flight from Egypt.
Jews commemorate the hasty exodus by eating matzah, an unleavened flatbread, and the more observant go to great lengths to make sure they do not consume anything that could potentially be leavened or fermented. Many families thoroughly clean their homes to avoid consuming even a single forbidden morsel of leavened food, known as chametz.
At Hanan Products, which since 1946 has made primarily whipped toppings, icings and dessert fillings for the bakery industry, cleaning and production for kosher-for-Passover products begin long before the weeklong holiday that this year starts in late March.
The factory in Hicksville, east of New York City, spends months ordering ingredients, organizing deliveries and setting up buyers. Much of the factory shuts down for three weeks to accommodate production of a kosher-for-Passover whipped topping and nondairy creamer.
Rabbi Joseph Schwartz, who has been helping the company comply with both Passover and non-Passover kosher rules for over two decades, explains that all surfaces the product could potentially touch must be washed with boiling water to cleanse them of any foreign material.
After that process, which usually takes a day at Hanan Products, production can begin with at least one rabbi on site to ensure nothing taints any of the food during the run.
The products are then shipped to distributors so that when the holiday arrives, people can celebrate with iced cakes and coffee creamers they know are certified kosher-for-Passover.
Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through The Conversation U.S. The AP is solely responsible for this content.