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Q. My butcher told me that he trims the ink marks off beef that will be sold for Pesach. (Sounds like a good idea for all year!) What would be the reason for that?
A. The government and shochtim mark meat with special edible inks. The USDA regulates the exact ingredients allowed in the ink, and several of them are possibly chametz, but – in the United States – those chametz-sensitive ones are most likely kitnios. The sensitive items include dextrose, (denatured) ethyl alcohol, and glycerin. As no one has been able to obtain approved inks which are certified as being kosher for Pesach, many Rabbonim recommend that people should cut the “ink mark” off the meat which they cook on Pesach. [It cannot easily be washed off.] It is likely that the letter of the law is that the ink does not have to be removed (since the kitnios is likely batel b’rov in the ink, the sensitive ingredients are batel in the meat, the alcohol is denatured and also likely evaporates when the meat is stamped), but nonetheless it is an appropriate practice to remove the ink-mark before cooking the meat.