Vanilla Flavoring in the Halal Industry
Haider Z. Khattak, M.S. Food Science
Natural Vanilla flavoring is obtained from vanilla bean pods. Vanilla has been used for centuries, and is the most popular of all flavoring extracts. More than thirty-three species of vanilla are known, but most of these are valueless for flavoring (Gnadinger 1929).
Vanilla flavor is liked almost everywhere in the world by people of all ages. Vanilla flavor is used in many food products including ice cream, yogurt, tea, coffee, pastry, cookies and many more. These days vanilla flavor is also used in carbonated beverages and flavored waters.
Preparation: The beans (fruits) are picked when fully grown, but still immature, spread under sun to partially dry and then fermented or “sweated” in barrels or under heavy cloth in the shade. Each night during the sweating period they are put in airtight boxes to protect from chilling and dampness. This treatment induces the production of vanillin as a result on enzyme activity. Although different methods of manufacturing are practiced in flavor industry, however, a simple traditional method is described here:
Manufacturing: The manufacture of vanilla extract may be considered in two phases:
(i): the preparation of bean pods, and (ii): the process of extraction.
Some manufacturers dry their beans before extracting. The drying temperature should not exceed 60°C, and drying at room temperature is even better. Before the beans are extracted they are first cured in dry ambient environment, then chopped into small pieces. Dry beans are easier to chop than wet ones. The chopped beans are subjected to several extractions.
Several solvents such as ether, chloroform, and carbon tetrachloride have been tried but they extract the fixed oil but not the valuable, water-soluble flavor components of the bean. Hence, dilute ethyl alcohol is almost universally used as a solvent, although some other chemicals, notably acetone, are good solvents for vanilla, and are used in making oleo-resin of vanilla. Isopropyl alcohol has been suggested as a suitable solvent, but its flavor is objectionable. The Research Committee of the Extract Manufacturers’ Association recommends 47 to 50% alcohol in water as an ideal solvent. There are a number of different methods of extraction, and each process is more or less modified to meet the needs of each manufacturer. The extracts are then combined, filtered through a special centrifugal filter into storage tanks, where it is allowed to age to improve flavor.
An extract of excellent quality and color is obtained. A darker colored extract can also be obtained by using glycerin in the solvent. Glycerin does not affect the flavor or aroma. Both glycerin and sugar are permitted as standardizing ingredients to even out the flavor perception. Glycerin must not be from animal source in order to get the Halal vanilla flavor.
Aging: Pure Vanilla Extract requires slow aging in order to develop a full-bodied character. Chemical changes take place during the aging process allowing for the formation of esters from acids, which develops aromas and aldehydes, thereby producing the full complexity of the extract. When aged over six months, the character and complexity of the extract matures, producing topnote essences with smooth, rich taste. The slower the aging, the better the development of the esters and aldehydes which produce the vanilla’s quality of aroma and taste (Reginald 2000)
Standardization: Dilute ethyl alcohol is almost universally used for the extraction of vanilla beans (Riaz and Chaudry, 2004). After the extraction, vanilla flavor, called natural vanilla flavoring, is standardized with alcohol. By the FDA’s standard of identity, natural vanilla flavoring must contain at least 35% alcohol by volume, otherwise it cannot be called natural vanilla flavoring (FDA, 2000). IFANCA does not certify vanilla extract containing such high amount of alcohol, but accepts it for further processing. Formulas like natural & artificial vanilla, artificial vanilla, natural vanilla-type flavor or some other related terminology is used by the flavor industry. These types of flavors are Halal certifiable if the amount of alcohol is less than 0.5%. These flavors might be used in different food products in different countries. The acceptable amount of alcohol in the flavor varies from country to country. Most countries accept flavors with less than 0.5% alcohol in the final flavor. Alcohol is further reduced in the consumer product.
Vanilla Oleoresin: This is a semi-solid concentrate obtained by complete removal of the solvent from a vanilla extract. Aqueous Isopropanol is frequently used instead of aqueous ethyl alcohol for the extraction step. Owing to unavoidable evaporation losses during the solvent stripping step, Vanilla Oleoresin is inferior in aroma flavor character to conventional, unconcentrated vanilla extract prepared by maceration. Vanilla Oleoresin is considered Halal since it does not carry any ethanol content.
Forms of Vanilla: Vanilla is available in different forms.
Ground Vanilla Beans: Ground vanilla beans are often used as a time-saver for industrial or home baking because they blend easily and dissolve quickly. These are ground from spent vanilla beans and do not have the flavor of whole beans.
Vanilla Extract: Vanilla extract is made by percolating or macerating chopped vanilla beans with ethyl alcohol and water. Most companies use a consistent blend of beans, sometimes from several regions, to create their signature flavor. The extraction process takes about 48 hours after which the extracts will mellow in the tanks with the beans from days to weeks, depending on the processor, before being filtered into a holding tank where the amber-colored liquid extract remains until being bottled. The extract may contain sugar, corn syrup, caramel, colors, or stabilizers. All additives must be on the label, but the FDA doesn’t require that the percentage of additives be listed.
Natural and Artificial Vanilla Flavoring: Most of the foods manufacturing companies use the term “Natural & Artificial Vanilla Flavorings”. There might be several ingredients in each complex flavor. Some time the word “WONF” appears beside the flavorings on the flavor labels. WONF means “with other natural flavorings”. Alcohol may be used in varying levels as a solvent and carrier. Since other solvents are also available IFANCA requires that the amount of alcohol be reduced to below 0.5% for a product to be certified as Halal. Alcohol used in the process is never from alcoholic drinks (Khamr). The non-certified products make those kinds of products doubtful and then the Muslim consumers must ask the company for clarification.
Vanilla Powder: The Vanilla Oleoresin, extract or flavoring can be made into powder by spray drying or pan drying and mixed onto a powder sweet in semi sweet carrier. Alcohol if present in the liquid form is evaporated to an amount much below 0.5% required for a product to be certified as Halal.
Vanillin and Ethyl Vanillin: Vanillin, the crystalline component, was first isolated from vanilla pods by Gobley in 1858. By 1874 it had been obtained from glycosides of pine tree sap, temporarily causing an economic depression in the natural vanilla industry (Lancashire, 2004). Vanillin (4-hydroxy-3-methoxybenzaldehyde), a pleasant smelling aromatic compound, occurs naturally in vanilla beans. It is used widely as a flavoring additive for beverages, cooking, and as an aromatic additive for candles, incense, potpourri, fragrances, perfumes, and air fresheners. Before using in a food product or mixing with natural vanilla to make natural and artificial vanilla flavoring, alcohol may be used as solvent and a carrier. IFANCA certified products are either in pure powder form or contain less than 0.5% ethyl alcohol in industrial applications. It may be isolated from the vanilla bean, and is often obtained as a byproduct of the pulp and paper industry by the oxidative breakdown of lignin. Vanillin and Ethyl Vanillin is also prepared by synthesis (Taber, 2002)
Difference between Khamr and Alcohol: IFANCA has consulted various Islamic scholars to check this critical issue about vanilla flavorings as it may contain alcohol. The word Khamr is traditionally used for fermented beverages which are intoxicants. Alcohol used in the manufacture of vanilla flavor is ethanol from grain or synthetic sources and never from alcoholic drinks or Khamr sources.
When IFANCA certifies a product, technologists have examined the ingredients, the source of the ingredients, the formulation of the product, the production process, the packaging and all other aspects of product preparation and determined they comply with Halal requirements. IFANCA certifies several flavor companies, many of them manufacture vanilla flavorings both artificial and natural. Specialists make sure that the final amount of alcohol does not exceed 0.5%, and all other ingredients are Halal.
God knows best.