I bought a box of kosher cereal and next to the kosher symbol it said “Yoshon.” Can you tell me what this means?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
In keeping kosher, there is a grain-related issue called Chadash and Yoshon – literally "new" and "old." The Torah (Leviticus 23:9-14) states that each year's grain crops (wheat, barley, oats, rye, and spelt) may not be consumed until the second day of Passover, when the Omer offering is brought.
The Sages understand more precisely that the Omer offering permits any grain which has taken root by the time of its offering. Any grains planted after that point in time may not be eaten until the next Passover.
Note that this has much bearing on many grain products today, since the growing season in most temperate climates begins in the springtime, just around Passover. Thus, such grains will not become permitted until the next Passover, several months after they are harvested. (By contrast, the primary growing season in Israel is in the wet winter months.) Note also that the issue only begins around the end of the summer, when products made from the new year's grains begin to reach the market.
Practically speaking, there is a dispute if Chadash applies to grain grown outside the Land of Israel or on land belonging to non-Jews (see Mishnah Berurah 489:45). Most people in the Diaspora are lenient regarding it, and almost all the kashrut organizations certify products which are not Yoshon. However, there are many meticulous individuals who are careful not to consume Chadash in any case, and as you noticed, the kashrut organizations are beginning to take note.
By the way, another grain-related issue is Challah. (This is not to be confused with the braided bread that we eat on Shabbat.) When one kneads a significant amount of dough (over 2.5 pounds) for baking purposes, a small portion of the dough is removed and burned. (In the times of the Holy Temple, this portion was given to a Kohen.) Once challah has been separated from the larger dough, the dough is "kosher" for baking into bread or other items.