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5 Tips for Understanding Food Labelling for Halal Ingredients

1. Sources of halal food and drinks

  • All land animals or birds are acceptable in a Halal diet except the following:
  • Animals or birds that are not slaughtered according to the Halal method
  • Pigs and dogs
  • Carnivorous animals, birds of prey or animals without external ears;
  • Pests and insects
  • Any animal or bird that is already dead
  • Any animal or bird that has been contaminated with any of the above
  • Animals that are forbidden to be killed in Islam such as bees, woodpeckers, etc.

Fish are considered to be Halal except those that are poisonous or hazardous to health. Shellfish are generally considered to be Halal provided they have been properly cleaned by a method such as that required by the EC regulation on products of animal origin. Amphibious animals that live both on land and water such as crocodiles, turtles and frogs are Haram.

Plants, plant products and their derivatives are Halal except those that are poisonous, intoxicating or hazardous to health. In particular, unprocessed foods such as fruits and vegetables are Halal provided they have not been contaminated by Haram materials.

Milk and eggs are Halal provided they are not obtained from a creature that is Haram.

Mushrooms and micro-organisms (i.e. bacteria, algae and fungi) and their by-products and/or derivatives are Halal except those that are poisonous, intoxicating or hazardous to health.

All natural minerals and chemicals are Halal except those that are poisonous, intoxicating or hazardous to health.

All kinds of water and beverages are Halal as drinks except those that are poisonous, intoxicating or hazardous to health. In particular, alcoholic drinks or alcoholic derivatives are Haram.

How to Read The Label

2. Flavourings

The word ‘flavour’ is misleading so check how it is presented. ‘Strawberry flavour’ means there’s no strawberry in it. ‘Strawberry flavoured’ suggests a significant amount of flavouring is derived from strawberries, and just ‘strawberry’ means it contains whole strawberries. The flavour language business is not a legal rule yet therefore it is very confusing for consumers. Be alert.

Brand packed foods could be labelled ‘tomato and cheese’ flavour, but read closer and the ingredients say made from artificial flavours or animal rennet. These are not necessarily Halal, even with the ‘V’ logo on front. Ask the retailer and contact the manufacturer for a breakdown of exact ingredients.

3. Genetically Modified (GM) ingredients

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or ingredients produced from GMOs must be listed on food labels if more than 0.9%. However, any food made with GM technology (e.g. cheese made with GM enzymes) and products like milk and eggs from animals fed on GM feed do not have to be labelled.

In these cases, the animal and its produce could be Halal to eat, but its welfare and feed beforehand might not have been pure. One of the reasons we talk about ‘conscious’ and organic food is that before you buy your slaughtered¬† meat or box of eggs, you must check for your own spiritual well-being what treatment that animal went through. One of the Islamic rules of slaughtering meat is to protect the animal before slaughtering.

4. Allergen Information

Since the European regulation came out in December 2014, there are 14 food ingredients that must always be clearly highlighted (as bold, or a different font) as they are known to causes intolerances. These ingredients are:

  • milk, eggs
  • peanuts, nuts from trees (including Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, almonds and walnuts)
  • fish, molluscs (such as mussels and oysters), crustaceans (including crab and shrimps),
  • soybeans, cereals containing gluten (wheat, barley, rye and oats), lupin, celery, mustard, sesame seeds,
  • sulphur dioxide and sulphites

Please notice that gelatine is not one of them, and therefore you will be required to look in the full ingredients list to clarify.

5. E number Guide

Additives which are ALWAYS of animal origin, such as (HARAAM):

  • E120 Cochineal : a red colour obtained from female insects
  • E441 Gelatine : derived from the bones and/ or hides of cattle and/ or pigs
  • E542 Edible Bone Phosphate : an extract from animal bones
  • E904 Shellac : a resin from the lac insect

Whilst some additives with a common code such as E47, can be either of animal or plant origin and this latter type needs to be investigated on a case-by-case basis per product/ manufacturer.

The main additives you need to be aware of are:

  • Glycerol / Glycerin / Glycerine (E422) – haraam if obtained from pork or non-halal meat sources.
  • Emulsifiers (E470 to E483) – haraam if obtained from pork or non-halal sources.
  • Edible Bone Phosphate (E542) – haraam if obtained from pork or non-halal meat sources.

E Labels full table

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