What is Halal Food?

Halal is Arabic for permissible. Halal food is that which adheres to Islamic law, as defined in the Koran. The term halal is particularly associated with Islamic dietary laws and especially meat processed and prepared in accordance with those requirements.

The Islamic form of slaughtering animals or poultry, dhabiha, involves killing through a cut to the jugular vein, carotid artery and windpipe.

Animals must be alive and healthy at the time of slaughter and all blood is drained from the carcass. During the process, a Muslim will recite a dedication, know as tasmiya or shahada.

Several food companies offer halal processed foods and products, including halal foie grasspring rollschicken nuggetsraviolilasagnapizza and baby foodHalal ready meals are a growing consumer market for Muslims in Britain and America and are offered by an increasing number of retailers. Vegetarian cuisine is halal if it does not contain alcohol.

The most common example of haram (non-halal) food is pork. While pork is the only meat that categorically may not be consumed by Muslims (the Quran forbids it, Surah 2:173 and 16:115) other foods not in a state of purity are also considered haram. The criteria for non-pork items include their source, the cause of the animal’s death and how it was processed. The majority of Islamic scholars consider shellfish and other seafood halal.

Muslims must also ensure that all foods (particularly processed foods), as well as non-food items like cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, are halal. Frequently, these products contain animal by-products or other ingredients that are not permissible for Muslims to eat or use on their bodies. Foods which are not considered halal for Muslims to consume include blood and intoxicants such as alcoholic beverages. A Muslim who would otherwise starve to death is allowed to eat non-halal food if there is no halal food available. During airplane flights Muslims will usually order kosher food (if halal food is not available) to assure their chosen dish will not have any pork ingredients.

Opinions on GMO foods are mixed, although there is no widely accepted prohibition from consuming them. Some clerics and scholars have expressed support, arguing that such food production methods are halal because they contribute to human well-being. Voices in opposition to GMOs argue that there is no need for genetic modification of food crops because God created everything perfectly and man does not have any right to manipulate anything that God has created. Some others have raised concern about the theoretical consumption of specific GMO foods produced using genes from pigs.

The Dubai Chamber of Commerce estimated the global industry value of halal food consumer purchases to be $1.1 trillion in 2013, accounting for 16.6 percent of the global food and beverage market, with an annual growth of 6.9 percent. Growth regions include Indonesia ($197 million market value in 2012) and Turkey ($100 million). The European Union market for halal food has an estimated annual growth of around 15 percent and is worth an estimated $30 billion. Approximately $8 billion of which are accounted for in France.

The halal food and beverage industry has also made a significant impact on supermarkets and other food businesses such as restaurants. French supermarkets had halal food sales totaling $210 million in 2011, a 10.5% growth from 5 years prior. In France, the market for halal foods is even larger than the market for other types of common foods. For example, in 2010, the market for halal foods and beverages in France was nearly twice that of organic foods. Auchan, a large French supermarket chain, now sells 80 certified halal meat products, along with 30 pre-cooked halal meals and 40 frozen halal products. Upscale restaurants and catering services have also added halal foods to their menus. In addition, many beverage companies such as Evian have taken the effort to add a halal stamp on their products to show that their water and other beverages are pure and not haram, or forbidden under Islamic law.

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