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Which foods are halal?

Which foods are halal?

The categorization of a food as allowed (halal) or forbidden (haram) is a combination of numerous factors (read also: What does halal mean? ). The primary sources for such an undertaking are the Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (s). Furthermore, geographical conditions and circumstances play a role. And finally, food production is such a highly specialized field that it is divided into different sciences (e.g. food chemistry or technology). Processes and materials used change so rapidly that no generally valid statements can be made about product categories. Rather, individual components and manufacturing processes are considered and analyzed by Islamic jurists and then classified as halal or nonhalal.


Which foods are halal? 

Halal classification by certification institutes

Today, the classification is no longer carried out by individual scholars. For such tasks, depending on the requirements, legal school and region in the world, various certification institutes have been established which carry out the certification of a product as permitted (halal) on behalf of food producers and restaurants etc. In order to receive a seal from the relevant institute, the organisation or company wishing to obtain the certificate must comply with all criteria and conditions. A well-known contact in Europe and especially in Germany is the European Halal Certification Institute (EHZ) in Hamburg. 


Criteria for halal certification

The EHZ offers an easily understandable overview [1] of the necessary criteria for Halal certification. Certification institutes examine the Qur'an, the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (s) as well as legal opinions of various scholars and test products, food and especially the manufacturing processes according to the previously agreed standards. In the following, these are to be regarded as an introduction to the subject and are reproduced in the same sense. Halal food must therefore

consist of halal raw materials

  •  come from permitted animals that have been slaughtered in an Islamic correct way.
  •  "pure". That means, for example, without blood, excrement etc.
  • be produced absolutely alcohol-free.

No alcohol may be used for processing either, whereby alcohol in this context means ethanol. In the figurative sense, all intoxicating substances are prohibited (haram). Furthermore, sea animals are generally permitted. As cold-blooded animals, they do not require slaughter.


These criteria can be further broken down below. Since the category meat is a broad and sometimes complex area of this topic, the focus will first be on products and foodstuffs. Issues such as halal slaughter and the criteria used in the production process (keyword: cross-contamination) of food are dealt with in separate articles.


Halal raw materials for food production are

  • vegetable raw materials that have not undergone fermentation (e.g. unfermented fruit juices)
  • animal raw materials that come from permitted and halal slaughtered animals (e.g. gelatine from a halal slaughtered bovine

Haram raw materials are

  • Blood
  • Pork
  • meat from animals which have died
  • meat of carnivores with fangs, and birds of prey with claws
  • Alcohol as a luxury food, regardless of form and concentration


What does that mean in concrete terms?

The criteria mentioned all seem somewhat abstract. For better clarification, two concrete examples are given.


Some food producers have switched from pig gelatine to beef gelatine, for example in the case of fruit gums. The consumption of beef and other products is generally permitted (halal). However, if the animal has not been slaughtered according to Islamic guidelines, the gelatine obtained from it may not be consumed either. A similar difficulty arises with calf rennet. Rennet is a mixture of different enzymes that is obtained from the abomasum of a slaughtered calf and is necessary for the production of cheese.² If a product for which rennet has been used is to be classified as halal, the calf in question must have been slaughtered halal. Otherwise, according to many scholars, the entire product (e.g. cheese) cannot be considered halal. Other ingredients frequently found in sweets are mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids. Basically, glycerides are the product of glycerol (a non- intoxicating alcohol) and acids. In this case, the focus should be on fatty acids. According to EU directives, the origin of these is not to be explicitly stated. They can be of plant or animal origin. While the name has been historically established, it no longer explicitly corresponds to modern production methods. In fact, the named acids may originate from animal fats. However, according to current standards, these are often obtained from soya (vegetable origin) or milk (animal origin). Whereby milk is considered "pure" by Islamic standards.


As already indicated above, there are very fine nuances in food production which, when considered by certifiers and scholars, can lead to minimally varying food regulations due to different regional conditions and other factors. Simple examples have been chosen to illustrate this. The transfer to complicated production processes requires much more complex and in-depth considerations. 


After the point "meat" has already been discussed several times, in the next article you will read about the correct Islamic slaughtering of animals and variations that have been established by modern technology: article: Halal meat. How does the Islamic slaughter take place?

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