Due to the complexity of tracing the source of various ingredients of which a food or a drink is made up of, many halal conscious Muslim consumers look for a list of grocery items that would facilitate them selecting halal items for consumption. A few lists and some books enumerating Halal/Haram status of items for Muslim consumption have been in circulation amongst the Muslims in the USA.
While the intentions of the compilers of such lists/books cannot be doubted; the fact remains that such list/books become out dated soon after their publication. The products researched today enjoying the halal status may change anytime to haram upon the inclusion of one, two or many haram ingredients due to formulation change and/or for economic consideration.
In absence of any understanding and/or contract with the manufacturer, haram ingredients find their way into the so called halal items without any notice to the Muslim consumers. The manufacturer is obligated to list the name of ingredients of an item on the label, but he is not obligated to include only halal ingredients. Thus a product included under Halal category in the list or book today may become haram tomorrow and yet Muslims continue to buy and consume such (haram) products (assuming them halal according to the list or book).
There are 5.5 million Jews in the USA, and an estimated 16% Jewish households follow kosher guidelines. Nonetheless, there are more than 23,000 items that are certified Kosher with Kosher symbol on them for convenience. There are more than eight million Muslims in the USA and an estimated 75% of the Muslim households follow halal guidelines in one form or other.
Because the Muslim consumers have failed to exert pressure on the manufacturer, the term Halal is rather unknown, leave alone the compliance of Halal standards. With the ready made list or book of Halal/Haram food items, the manufacturers are getting free promotion (advertisement) of their products without any obligation of compliance with Halal standards. Besides the (halal) status of such product can be changed without any notice and Muslims continue to buy such products still assuming them halal.
Considering the buying power of Muslim food dollars in the USA (about ten billion dollars annually), Muslims should speak out to the manufacturers for the compliance of Halal standards.
A Muslim organization has come up with 'Halal Slide Guide' enumerating the Halal/Haram status of the most commonly used ingredients (not products). This guide enables Muslims to check all the ingredients on the label, determine their Halal/Haram status and then select the item if all the ingredients are halal. This is a fool-proof device enabling Muslims to make halal selection based on the ingredients which by law are listed on a food package.
For a more permanent solution, Muslims should call and/or write to the manufacturers and insist on producing items complying halal standards. Manufacturers can be referred to qualified Halal certifying agencies for Halal certification. The demand and magnitude of Muslim consumers can easily convince manufacturers for halal production.
Once a manufacturer finds a halal market niche and cater to the Muslim consumers with halal certification and halal symbol, other competitors may follow. Consequently a whole array of halal products with halal certification and halal symbol for easy selection will, insha'llah, be found in the US supermarkets. A concerted effort to promote halal is needed indeed. This is a challenge and an opportunity.
Reprinted with the permission from the book, Islamic Dietary Concepts And Practices by M.M. Hussaini