Vinegar is one of the oldest condiments used in foods since ancient times and it continues to be used all over the world as a flavoring and as a preservative. Vinegar is made by two distinct biological processes, both the result of the action of beneficial microorganisms (yeast and “Acetobacter” bacteria) that turn sugars into acetic acid through an intermediary step of alcohol. Many of our favorite foods such as yogurt, cheese and pickles involve some type of bacteria in their production. The first step in the process is called alcoholic fermentation and occurs when yeasts change natural sugars to alcohol in the absence of oxygen, under controlled conditions. In the second step of the process, a group of bacteria (called “Acetobacter”) converts the alcohol portion to acetic acid. It is the acetic acid fermentation that forms vinegar. In the manufacture of vinegar, proper bacterial cultures, timing and temperatures are important for fermentation.

Acetic acid is not vinegar, although acetic acid is the primary constituent of vinegar, besides water. Vinegar contains many vitamins and compounds not found in pure acetic acid, such as riboflavin, Vitamin B-1 and mineral salts from the starting material that imparts vinegar its distinct flavor. The United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) does not recognize diluted acetic acid as vinegar. Consequently, acetic acid should not be substituted for vinegar in pickled foods, or in foods that consumers customarily expect to be prepared with vinegar. Vinegar can be made from any fruit, or from any material containing sugar. Typical retail varieties of vinegar include white distilled vinegar, cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, grape vinegar, rice vinegar, balsamic vinegar, malt vinegar and sugar cane vinegar. Other specialty vinegars include banana vinegar, pineapple vinegar, and raspberry vinegar. Vinegar is also available in flavored and seasoned variety (e.g., garlic, pepper, sage, etc.). The strength of vinegar is measured by the percent of acetic acid present in the product. All vinegar sold in the United States at the retail level should have at least 4% acidity as mandated by FDA. Typical white distilled vinegar comprises at least 4% acidity but no more than 7%. Cider and wine vinegars, typically, are slightly more acidic with approximately 5-6% acidity.


Islamic Status of Wine Vinegar:

While contributing to an article on Istihala: Change of State, Sheikh Dr. Jaafar Al-Quaderi gives an example where he says: “Wine is Haram as long as it remains wine. However, if the same wine is turned into vinegar, it becomes halal. Hence the use of vinegar derived from wine is halal.”

According to Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi: “Muslim scholars unanimously agree that if wine turns into vinegar by itself, it is lawful. Most scholars say that it is pure and lawful because it has changed from its original state, others say that it is still impure and, thus, must be avoided. In the books of the Maliki jurists, it is stated that it’s permissible to treat wine so that it becomes vinegar.

One may argue that some part of Haram (disallowed) wine may be present in wine vinegar, because during the processing of converting wine to wine vinegar, 100% of alcohol does not convert to acid. Some minute amount of wine is left over in wine vinegar. Examining the historic perspective of vinegar making, the determination as to when the vinegar was ready was made by taste and smell rather than percent conversion. In biological as well as manufacturing processes, the reactions seldom result in 100 percent conversion.

Prophet Muhammad** said: “Vinegar is a comfort for man.” (Muslim)

Another well-known Hadith (sayings of Prophet Muhammad**) is: “God has put blessing in vinegar, for truly it was the seasoning used by the Prophets before me.”

And Bayhaqi has transmitted this Hadith: “A household which has vinegar will never suffer from poverty”.

In conclusion, vinegar has been consumed by Muslims for centuries, even during the time of Prophet Muhammad**. The product itself, as manufactured by the industry and commercially available, is halal.

** Muslims recite the words ‘peace be upon him’ whenever the name of Prophet Muhammad is mentioned.