As the halal market grows in North America, one of the large manufacturers of processed meat products in Canada did their research to see what the Canadian Muslims are looking for when they buy halal food. In order to get their range of halal products right for the halal consumer they went to great lengths to make sure they were going to meet the right criteria.  

What they discovered, contrary to what the previous generation of Muslims wanted which was price based, the cheaper the better, was this generation of Muslims want a quality product, not a cheap one, and they are prepared to pay for it.  

When asked what they were looking for when they bought their food they repeatedly came back with the same answers: humanely treated, additive and preservative free, environmentally friendly, for which they were prepared to pay the higher price for a quality product.  

This change in Muslim shopping patterns is not unique to Canada, it has developed strongly worldwide through all cultures and races of Muslims who have a higher awareness of food safety, illness caused by additives, and high amounts of ingredients like sugar, salt and fat in food. We must be reminded that whenever halal is mentioned in the Quran it is always connected with tayyib (wholesome, pure, nutritious and safe). Because the Muslim consumers are making demands for these changes, the food companies are being forced to comply. Too much is being publically exposed about the results of additives, preservatives and high sugar/artificial sugar substitutes, fat and salt content in foods for them to be able to get away with it any longer.  

Diabetes is now rife amongst Muslims young and old. Plus with the sharp rise in cancer, and the research on the long term consumption and use of carcinogenic ingredients in food and personal care products, pesticides and additives, they are now able to find how the consumption and use of these products can be fatal to humans, or at the very least the cause of many illnesses.  

The other side of this, which can be just as life threatening, is of course obesity. One quarter of the adult population in the US is considered obese, including around 12 million children. Four Muslim countries in the GCC are also included in the top 10 fattest countries in the world. Kuwait is the second fattest country in the world behind the United States.  

The simplest way to get around this would be to make everything from scratch yourself so that you can monitor what you are putting into the food you eat. Go for natural flavorings, and give your palate time to change. Strong spices can sometimes help to replace the additives. 

But not everyone has time for this. Muslim women no longer have the time to cook fresh meals for their family, and they have to rely on prepared foods that make their life easier when going out to work or study every day. Their children want to eat the same junk food all their friends have in their lunch box. So, once again, it goes back to petitioning the food manufacturers to do their best to make sure that the products that they are producing aren’t exceptionally high in sugar, salt, fat, additives and preservatives that give them a long shelf life, and to list on the label what is in the food.  

Fat, sugar and salt in processed foods are usually added to mask the taste of chemical additives. With this increased flavoring, salt and sugar content in their food, people that are used to eating these types of products might find it difficult to go to a purer product with just the basic ingredients in it. They have become an addiction, just like tobacco.  

Yale University professor of psychology and public health, Kelly Brownell, an especially vocal proponent of the view that the processed-food industry should be seen as a public health menace, said, “As a culture, we’ve become upset by the tobacco companies advertising to children, but we sit idly by while the food companies do the very same thing. And we could make a claim that the toll taken on the public health by a poor diet rivals that taken by tobacco.”  

Changing your diet, if it is an unhealthy one, is not one that you can do overnight. But one of the blessings given to the Muslims is the month of Ramadan. During the fasting month, which is now during the long days of summer in North America, people who are looking to make these changes can try to start doing this while fasting. It is a time of strong intentions, and Allah gives you the blessing of helping you fulfill these intentions during this blessed month.  

So take advantage, and make a plan to improve your diet during Ramadan if you need to. The night is not the time to get as much into your stomach as possible, but to get the nutrients that you need to sustain yourself for your fast the next day. Monitor the food you are eating at this time to get simply the best from it.  

Then, once you get back to your normal eating routine after Ramadan, you will hopefully have the resolve to keep hold of the changes you have made, and carry on with a healthy diet and a halal and healthy lifestyle.