Back to top
Q. Why is it that canola oil is kitnios, but safflower oil is not?
A. Many food items potentially qualify as kitnios, but we accept the rulings of Chok Yaakov 453:9 and Iggeros Moshe (OC 3:63) that only those items used for food and considered kitnios in previous generations (when the minhag was established) are forbidden, but others are not. We do not have record of safflower oil being used for food purposes at the time of the establishment of the minhag or in subsequent generations, and, therefore, we assume it is permitted. Others, particularly those from Eretz Yisroel, who do not accept Chok Yaakov, may hold that safflower oil is forbidden.
On the other hand, canola oil has quite a history of being used and treated as kitnios, as follows: Rapeseed oil was (and is still) used in Europe for hundreds of years, was likely even used when the minhag was first beginning, and in a well-known teshuvah of the Maharsham 1:183 regarding oil of kitnios he assumes that raps, the German word for rapeseed, is kitnios. Thus, we see that rapeseed was treated as kitnios even in earlier times.
Rapeseed oil was/is banned from food use in the United States due to high levels of erucic acid found in the oil. In the 1970s, Canadian researchers bred a form of rapeseed that had low levels of erucic acid, and that oil was approved for use in the United States in the 1980s. To differentiate this new breed of rapeseed oil they named the new breed “canola” which also showed off their civic pride for having created a “CANadian OiL”.
Thus, canola oil is really a form of rapeseed oil (and is also known by the acronym LEAR – low erucic acid rapeseed), and since rapeseed is kitnios, the canola version is also forbidden on Pesach.