Halal food products include all food made according to the strictures of Islamic law. By being products, they are processed foods and not raw ingredients. Halal food products range from whole foods and prepared meals to desserts and snacks via cuts of meat and modified products such as halal gelatin. Many modern retailers and restaurants have begun labeling their products so Muslim consumers know if the product is halal or not.
To be considered eligible for halal status, the food products must comply with Islamic law regarding banned items and practices. First, this means the product should not contain any alcohol, carrion or blood products. Second, it should not contain anything from a pig or cooked in oil made from a pig. Third, any meat such as beef or lamb must be from an animal killed in accordance with Islamic traditions, whereby the throat of the animal is slit so it may bleed dry. This ritual must be done by a Muslim, Jew or Christian.
Meat products form a core component of halal food products. Meat cuts and products such as burgers and kebabs need to be sourced from abattoirs that conform to Muslim practices. This might be a problem in countries with strong animal rights activists, but the meat is usually labeled by the company as being halal if it is. If not, meats can be bought from halal butchers and specialized halal stores across the world.
One ambiguity in Islamic Law is the status of seafood products. While some believe all products of the sea are gifts from God to man, others believe that only certain products are. This means Muslims should check with their local Imams before buying or consuming seafood products. If acceptable, seafood products range from fish soups to fish and chips via sushi, seafood curries and fisherman’s pie.
All vegetables and fruits are permitted so long as they have not been prepared in pig oil or made with alcohol, animal shortening or lard. This means most rice, pasta, baked goods and breads without haram items are halal food products. All nuts, eggs, and tofu are also considered halal food products. Beans and lentils are normally always permitted as well.
The biggest problem with desserts is the presence of pig-based gelatin, rennet, lipase and some other ingredients. There are many types of halal food products for desserts. For example, all vegetarian desserts, except those containing alcohol, are halal because they use vegetarian-friendly gelatin made from plants. Such halal desserts include ice cream, tiramisu, cakes and cheesecakes.
Dairy products are halal. This means milks and yogurts are OK to consume. Cheeses are more of a problem area and need to follow the same rules as desserts meaning no rennet, lipase or pepsin.
In terms of snacks, most are halal food products so long as they do not use gelatin. With regards to fried snacks such as potato chips, the chips need to be fried in non-pig-based oil. Any easy solution to this means choosing vegetarian-friendly chips. All flavors except those containing pig products such as ‘smoky bacon’ are halal-friendly, ranging from salted to cheesy.