(1): Can we eat vegetarian meals?

There are different types of vegetarian meals. The most common ones may contain milk and eggs but not other animal byproducts. The standard for vegan vegetarian meals requires they contain no animal products, including milk or egg products. However, they may contain alcohol. If the meals do not contain any alcohol, they are Halal. If they contain alcohol, they are not Halal. Initially, vegetarian meals were prepared by and for people who do not believe in eating meat. While eating vegetarian meals is Halal, the concept that eating meat is not allowed or is repugnant is against Islamic teachings. Hence one should not select vegetarianism or vegetarian meals because they feel it is not proper to eat meat. If one doesn’t like the taste of meat but recognizes there is nothing wrong with eating meat that is acceptable. Sometimes vegetarian meals contain gelatin. This raises a serious concern that the gelatin used may not be Halal. God knows best. (RMO)


(2): Can you send me a copy of your Halal and Haram list?

Halal and Haram lists came into being because Muslims expressed a concern about the foods available in the marketplace. Concerned and educated Muslims decided to investigate various products and ingredients to provide guidance to other Muslims. The lists served the purpose of educating Muslim consumers about food ingredients and food products. Lists which discuss ingredients are useful in understanding product labels and making Halal choices. On the other hand, lists of specific products are not as useful because the status of the products can change at any time and this could lead to consuming haram products. Also a product brand which is Halal in one geographic region may contain haram ingredients in another region or country. That is why the Islamic Food And Nutrition Council Of America offers certification services to food providers. IFANCA will supervise the production facilities, provide Muslim slaughtermen, examine and approve ingredients and supervise the production to assure a product is Halal. When approved, IFANCA will issue a Halal certificate and allow the product to bear the symbol on the package. This is the surest way to know the product in question is Halal. Since Halal certified products are not readily available, IFANCA has prepared a list of Haram or questionable ingredients for Halal consumers to watch out for on the product labels. An informed consumer is a smart buyer. List of ingredients is available at: http://www.ifanca.org/guide.htm. God knows best. (RMO)


(3): Isn’t all cheese Halal?

The production of cheese requires the use of enzymes to coagulate or curdle the milk and the addition of other ingredients for various functions. The enzymes can be derived from animal, vegetable or microbial sources. The animal sources include pigs, goats, sheep and cattle. The enzyme derived from pigs is called pepsin, and is haram. Another enzyme derived from pigs or small cattle is lipase. (Lipase can also be made by microorganisms, which is Halal.) One of the enzymes derived from the inner lining of the stomach of calves is called rennet. It may come from Zabiha calves or non-Zabiha calves. The enzyme can also be produced microbially are Halal. Rennet is a crude preparation containing dried, ground linings of the calf stomach. The inactive enzyme is called rennin which breaks down to active enzyme Chymosin. Today, purified chymosin is also manufactured through genetic modifications of microorganisms when chymosin gene from calf is duplicated and inserted into microbial cells. Calf rennet is still used by specialty cheese manufacturers like Italian cheeses. Moreover, pig enzymes, such as lipase, are still used in high flavor, ripened cheeses, like romano. Today, many cheeses in the North American markets are still questionable. Most cheese products do not list the source of the enzyme, so one must ask the producer where the enzyme comes from. Of course, it is possible the source will change without notification. Finally, cheese products may contain many other ingredients, which must also be examined. God knows best. (RMO)


(4): Can we eat gelatin?

Gelatin is a protein product obtained from hydrolysis of bones and skins of animals including pigs, cattle, and fish. The main raw materials used today are pigskins, cattle bones and cattle hide. Of these, the most common source is pigskins. Gelatin is used in the preparation of baked goods, ice cream, yogurt, gelatin desserts and many other foods. It is also used in the medical and pharmaceutical industry. If the word gelatin appears on a label without reference to its source, it is generally derived from pig skins and cattle bones, so it must be avoided. It is possible to produce Halal gelatin by using the bones and hides of Halal slaughtered cattle. In such a case, the gelatin would be certified Halal and labeled as Halal gelatin. IFANCA certifies Halal gelatin made from fish skins and Halal slaughtered cattle. Before buying a product containing gelatin, ask the manufacturer to provide the source of gelatin and make your decision accordingly. IFANCA recommends only Halal certified gelatin products. God knows best. (RMO)


(5): Is chocolate liquor Haram?

Chocolate liquor is syrupy liquid made of ground beans. It is used in making candy, drinks and other chocolate flavored products. It does not contain any alcohol, so it is not haram. God knows best. (RMO)


(6): Can I eat the food served on airlines?

Airlines offer a variety of meal choices to meet passenger needs. There are low salt meals, vegetarian meals, seafood meals and others. Some airlines even offer Muslim meals. In general, the Muslim meals are not certified by a qualified Halal certifying agency. This means it is not known if the meat and other ingredients are derived from Zabiha animals and are free of pork products and alcohol. Airlines will provide certified Halal meals when they see sufficient demand to justify it. Every Muslim traveler should request a Halal meal and if unavailable, the traveler should make sure the request is recorded so it can be considered in the future. Ask for a letter from the head of the food service section in response to your request for a Halal meal. That way, you can be sure your request has reached the decision-maker. After registering your request, you may have to opt for the seafood or vegetarian meal. Don’t be surprised by ordering a Kosher meal, only to find it has been prepared in wine. God knows best. (RMO)


(7): Is it true that Pepsi-Cola contains pepsin from the pig stomach?

Pepsi-Cola does not contain pepsin from pigs, nor any other animal source. In fact, it does not contain any enzyme at all. The names (“pepsi” and “pepsin”) are closely related in writing and could have created such misunderstanding. Pepsi-Cola’s perceived function is to help digest food similar to that of pepsin; therefore, there is no correlation, and Pepsi-Cola in its current form does not have the enzyme pepsin. God knows best. (AHS)


(8): Is saccharine Halal?

Saccharine is a synthetic product; therefore, it is not Haram. However, there has been some concern about its effects on health. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has warned that saccharine may be hazardous to the health because it has been found to cause cancer in laboratory animals. It is permitted in foods as a non-calorie sweetener in dietetic foods where use of sugar is contra-indicated. It is an approved food ingredient for restricted use by the FDA and USDA. We feel that limited use of saccharine should not cause any serious health problems. However, it must be avoided wherever possible. To make the consumer aware of its presence in a food product, it must be declared on the label along with a statement of warning about its hazardous health effect. God knows best. (AHS)


(9): What is sugar alcohol? Is it Haram?

Sugar alcohols are chemicals similar to sugar and also contain chemical form of alcohol function. They are used as replacement for sugar in dietetic foods. They are not intoxicating, and there is no ethyl alcohol component in them. Hence sugar alcohol is Halal. All chemical alcohols are not Khamr i.e., intoxicating. God knows best. (MMC)


(10): I want to know the source of guar gum. Is it Halal or Haram?

Also called Guar flour, this is the ground seeds of a plant belongs to Legume family which is cultivated in India as livestock feed. Guar gum has five to eight times the thickening power of starch. Guar gum is considered to be Halal since the source is from plant origin. It is used as a binding and thickening agent in tablet formulations; in pharmaceutical jelly in toothpastes, bubble gums and many other products, as well as a clarifying agent in juices. God knows best. (HZK)


(11): What is “civet oil”? Is it Halal?

Civet oil is not Halal. It is the secretion from certain glands of both male and female civet cat used as food in China. This ingredient is used as a fixative in perfumery and in flavors by flavor industry. God knows best. (HZK) 


(12): I found ingredient SD Alcohol 40-B in hair care product, is it Halal to use?

Since it is denatured and also for external use, it is Halal. SD Alcohol 40-B is not from alcoholic drinks hence this ingredient is not najas or unclean. God knows best. (MMC)