In 1992, a major producer of health and nutritional products contacted IFANCA. This company, whom we will refer to as Company A, supplies products to countries around the world. One of their local distributors in a Muslim country had told them that Muslim consumers would not accept supplements provided in capsules made with pork gelatin. Company A was holding a planning meeting to address this issue and invited IFANCA to the meeting to help determine how to provide acceptable product to the Muslim consumers.

Gelatin is a protein product obtained from the skins of pigs, cattle, and fish, and the bones of cattle or other large animals. It may be useful to review the gelatin production process, as commonly practiced throughout the world. Bones from animals are aggregated. When the bones come from a slaughterhouse, they normally have some remnants of meat and fat attached. This must be removed before the bones can be used. It is normally done by cooking, much like soup making. Then the bones are demineralized by using acid and alkali treatment.

Due to the capacity of plant equipment, normally in the range of 5,000 pounds of gelatin product a day, the quantity of bones and the number of animals slaughtered to produce this volume is very large, in the neighborhood of 1,000-5,000 heads a day. There isn.t a single Halal slaughterhouse in North America that could handle such numbers. Because of this and for convenience, all Halal and non-Halal bones are mixed together, regardless of source, which means that cow bones are mixed with pig bones. The result is that commonly available gelatin contains some pig origin. Of course, most of the cow bones used are not from a Halal slaughter.

IFANCA was happy to work with Company A and their suppliers to meet the challenge of supplying Halal capsules to the Muslim consumer. The first step was to locate capsule producers and work with them to convert their source of gelatin to Halal gelatin. (Company A only produced the nutrition supplement, which was in a powder form. They purchased the capsules, which were then filled with the nutritional supplement.) IFANCA met with a number of empty capsule suppliers and discussed the feasibility of getting Halal gelatin from their suppliers. One of the capsule producers whom we will refer to as Company B, sent IFANCA a Halal certificate for the gelatin they used, which was produced by Company C in Europe. The certificate stated that the gelatin was produced from cattle bones and that there was no contamination with pig or dog bones. It was clear the cattle were not slaughtered by Muslims. This did not qualify for an IFANCA Halal certification. (IFANCA requires cattle to be slaughtered by Muslims who recite Tasmiyyah and Takbir at the time of slaughter.) Company B then called all its gelatin suppliers and asked them if anyone had Halal gelatin. They all produced Halal certificates stating the same thing, “this gelatin is from cattle bones and there is no contamination from pig or dog bones”. Clearly IFANCA could not accept this certification.

If Company A was to obtain Halal gelatin capsules, they would have to pioneer the development of a source of Halal gelatin. IFANCA accepted this challenge and worked on this project for 7 years it took to complete. It was time to find a source of Halal bones.

Another company referred to as Company D said that they could get Halal bones and make Halal gelatin in Europe. You might ask, why would a company accept this challenge which seemed impossible to achieve? The reason is quite simple. A large group of Muslim consumers insisted on using only Halal capsules. Without Halal capsules, they would not purchase the product. Company A wanted to sell to these Muslim consumers because they represented an excellent business opportunity. Company B, a supplier of gelatin capsules to Company A, wanted to keep Company A as their customer. Company D, the gelatin producer, thought that they could meet the challenge and become a preferred supplier to Company B.

IFANCA was willing to work with Company D to produce Halal gelatin. Representatives from IFANCA, Company D and the Importing Muslim country visited slaughterhouses in Europe to investigate the feasibility of securing Halal bones. The group determined that there were not enough Halal bones to produce gelatin on a regular continuous process line. However, there were enough Halal bones in Europe to produce Halal gelatin on a batch-by-batch basis. Of course, the bones would have to be collected, shipped in dedicated trucks and stored separately from non-Halal bones. They would also have to be defatted, demineralized and extracted separately. This was quite a challenge too. To determine the cost effectiveness of producing gelatin by this process, two batches of Halal gelatin were produced. As it turned out, the gelatin produced was not cost effective and we had to go back to the drawing boards.

By now it was the year 1995. Three years had passed and while we had gained a lot of experience in the gelatin production process, we were no closer to producing Halal gelatin than we were at the start. All this time the Company Chas been working behind the scenes to find the source of Halal bones. It came to IFANCA with a proposal to set up a small gelatin plant in the United States, using bones from Halal slaughter in the US and Canada. One of the bone rendering plants was willing to dedicate one of their lines to exclusively produce Halal bones, but there was a catch. They required a minimum volume of 150,000 pounds of fresh bones a day to operate this line. It doesn.t sound like much, but to produce 150,000 pounds of Halal bones a day requires the Halal slaughter of 1,000 cows every day. With all the exclusive Halal slaughter plants we located, it was not possible to produce the required quantity of Halal bones. Another good idea hit the dust.

Next, We decided to explore the Muslim countries as suppliers of dry bones. We did not pursue this option originally because bones are normally thrown out or used with the meat in the Muslim countries while in the West bones are rendered fresh. So in Muslim countries, bones have to be collected from bone yards restaurants, open fields, etc. and it is difficult to differentiate between bones from slaughtered animals and jungle bones from dead cattle, horses, donkeys, dogs, or other animals.

The gelatin companies had already visited Pakistan, Nigeria, India, Egypt and many other countries that produce Halal beef. They assured us that some of the bone mills could keep the slaughter bones separate from other bones. It was now 1997 and we had been working on this project for over 5 years. We were not about to give up now. The following year would prove to be the most difficult. We visited many slaughterhouses that were no more than animal killing shacks and yards. We also visited the bone mills. It was quite an experience for the olfactory senses. We worked with the bone mills to develop a system of segregation and verification to keep the slaughter bones separate, all the way from the slaughterhouses to the gelatin production plants. Finally, in 1999, we achieved our goal and were able to certify Halal gelatin. This gelatin would be labeled “IFANCA certified Halal”. Now it became possible to manufacture and certify gelatin capsules.

Currently there are two manufacturers producing “IFANCA certified Halal” gelatin. These capsules are available for use in the food and pharmaceutical industries. Some of the nutritional supplement manufacturers have taken the lead to make and sell certified Halal capsules to select Muslim markets. IFANCA certified nutritional supplements, packaged in “IFANCA certified Halal” gelatin capsules are now available. Of course, it is not only the capsule itself that is certified Halal, all the ingredients in the nutritional supplement are also certified as Halal.

The availability of Halal gelatin also makes it possible to produce other food items that require gelatin. Some of these items are marshmallows, gelatin desserts, yogurt, and food additives and ingredients.

This is quite an impressive success story for IFANCA. But it is not only a success story for IFANCA, it is a success story for the Muslim consumer. It started by Muslims demanding Halal product and rejecting any substitutes. They expressed their needs, accepted no compromises and backed this up with a commitment to purchase the right product. This prompted the nutritional supplement producer to review the market assess the potential and commit to providing acceptable products for the Muslim consumers. They sought the help of an Islamic organization with the expertise in Halal supervision and certification and the ability to become a partner in this pioneering and long-term project. That organization was IFANCA. Together, the nutritional supplement producer and IFANCA convinced a gelatin supplier that the project was not only feasible but also lucrative. All three partners worked very hard to identify sources of Halal bones, develop and implement the procedures to maintain the integrity of the Halal bones and to produce the Halal gelatin. The power of the consumer should never be underestimated. We should not assume that we could not have what we need. We must take the time to let producers know what products we need. If we do that, we will never have to settle for anything but the best. [MMC]