Every American Muslims' Haram Vs. Halal Food Guide, In 4 Bite-Sized Steps

Every American Muslims' Haram Vs. Halal Food Guide, In 4 Bite-Sized Steps

Since the debut of apps in 2008, eating halal has never been easier!

To Muslims, eating halal is a religious dietary requirement, much like Kosher is to Jews — except stricter and rarely catered to in the Western world. Whereas Jews can be assured a product is Kosher by the symbol on the package and toss into the cart, a Muslim's trip to the grocery store means donning your undercover CIA foodie hijab and printing yourself a nutritionist certification. Back in the day, to make sure all the food we're purchasing is halal, each product underwent a preliminary, scrutinizing scan, a thorough background check supported by online research and was followed by a phone call to the parent company to correlate our findings with their database listings of the ingredients' sources. Now, since 2008 and the introduction of apps, eating halal has become so much easier. Although it's still the same extensive process, verifying the haram/halal status of your food has become simple enough that it can be boiled down to four easy steps!

1. Download the Scan Halal app or any other that fits your needs best.

There's a whole slew of halal scan apps available, including the E-Numbers scanner for Muslims living in the European Union as well as the Halal Food app by the creator and owner of Muslim Consumer, Rasheed Ahmed, but from the ones I have tried, Scan Halal has proven to be the most effective due its comprehensive database. It lists various products, especially those most commonly purchased, and it even lists where in the U.S. each product is being scanned!

When you first open the app, it will ask you for to select your "halal settings," which translates to, how strict do you want to be? Always choose "zabiha" — all ingredients derived from animal (unless halal certified) and alcohol will be considered not permissible — because one, that's what "halal" requires anyways, and two, because if you mistakenly do eat haram, you will lose 40 days of ibaadat (rewards for your good deeds, even your daily five prayers)! That's why it's better to be safe than sorry in this case.

You can customize your settings further as well. The Scan Halal app lists every ingredient in the product and explains exactly why that said ingredient is halal or haram. This helps me narrow down exactly what I need to ask the ingredient specialists when I call the product's company to verify the information present.

Why would I do that if the app already confirms the product's status?

Because unfortunately, like every other halal/haram app out there, most of the times that status is "unknown," so that requires a bit more digging than usual. The halal apps are all still undergoing development today, but it's a great leap in progress so far, considering how difficult it was to break down a whole ingredients list yourself less than 10 years ago!

2. If your app pulls up "unknown" for the food's status, look for dietary symbols.

On the front of every package, there will be a dietary symbol. Can you find it on the carton above?

The most common symbols are "U," "UD" and "K." All three symbols stand for Kosher, with the first two referring to the dairy present in the product. These symbols also mean that all the fat-based ingredients in the product (except diary) are from a vegetable source (as long as the ingredients list also does not contain any of the following: wine, alcohol, gelatin and L-Cysteine).

Meat, on the other hand, is held to a more rigid halal standard based on the way it's slaughtered. In Islam, if the animal in question is not halal to begin with (i.e. pig, which is not permissible for Muslims to consume in any way, shape or form), then that meat is automatically haram. Halal meat only comes from land animals with free flowing blood, like deer, rabbits, cows and chickens, to name a few. However, the animal cannot simply be slaughtered and count as halal meat; it must be sacrificed in the name of God (Allah) using a certain procedure known as qurbani.

The qurbani method not only lessens the animal's suffering and serves as a quick, efficient process, but it also promotes cage-free, natural growth of animals and caps the Muslim population's consumption of meat to healthy boundaries. This is why Muslims avoid the carcass meat of any and every animal butchered at your local factory.

So, if the symbol on the product is either of the three letter combinations above, then it passes the preliminary checks! The next thing to consider is the ingredients list.

3. Are any of the ingredients listed 100 percent haram?

It's most certainly possible, even with dietary symbols like Kosher, because unlike Muslims, Jews drink alcohol and wine.

Check for any of the haram ingredients listed below:

  • Gelatin (including Kosher version)
  • L-Cysteine — found in high-protein foods
  • Liquor, beer batter, rum flavor or wine (including wine vinegar)
  • Any grape wine by product (like powder, oil or seed extract)
  • Ethyl alcohol or ethanol
  • Cochineal or carmine — often found in food coloring
  • Naturally brewed soy sauce — uses alcohol during process
  • Brewer yeast extract
  • Vanilla extract (any natural vanilla) — uses alcohol during process
  • Confectionary glaze or resinous glaze

4. And if there are any ingredients listed that you don't recognize...

Call the company branded on the product, and ask: "Are there any animal derivatives in this product? Is there any alcohol in this product or was any alcohol used in the ingredients to create this product?"

Some common ingredients you will need to call to ask about are:

  • Torula yeast (if grown on alcohol) — found in processed foods
  • Carrageenan (if made with ethyl alcohol) — found in dairy products
  • Natural flavoring*
  • Artificial flavoring*

You may have difficulty determining the halal/haram status of the last two flavoring ingredients, because companies will claim that information is "proprietary." In simpler terms, because those ingredients are under 1 percent, they fall under the umbrella category of "natural" or "artificial" flavor, and they help to maintain the originality of the manufacturer's product so it cannot be replicated.

In this case, it's best to clarify that you are not asking for specific ingredients, you are simply concerned if there is any alcohol used or present in the natural or artificial flavoring. More often that not, the company specialist will then put you on hold and consult a manager first before answering your question truthfully, but some are quite secretive and may require a few emails to assure them you are not attempting to steal trade secrets.

Even if it's tough to narrow down ingredients, particularly in the Western world, eating halal is not a challenge if you use the resources available to you, stay updated with nutrition facts and listings on Muslim Consumer and always call and ask to confirm!

If you do your best, Allah (swt) will make it easy for you.

...Verily, Allah does not destroy the rewards of those who do good. (Qurān 11:115)
Cover Image Credit: Anne Preble / Unsplash

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9 Things All Mexican Food Addicts Know All Too Well

Don't come between me and my Mexican food.

In the city I grew up in, there is a Mexican restaurant just about every five miles. They are the after school hangouts and first date go-to's for most of the kids here, especially the high school girls.

I know the servers at my favorite one know my order almost every time I go in there (at least once a week). However, a lot of people apparently get tired of eating Mexican food about twice a week... but I sure don't. If you are a Mexican food addict like me, I am sure you know at least a few of these yourself.

1. Cheese dip tastes like heaven and you have to have it.

That amazing creamy white cheese dip put on a perfectly salted chip is enough to make your day better. Forget the actual food---we'd be content living off of cheese dip and chips for the rest of our lives. Our restaurant trip is not complete without an order of it and if you are lucky enough to get your favorite waiter, maybe even get a large bowl for the night.

SEE ALSO: An Ode To Queso, My First And True Love

2. You never have to look at the menu.

We know when we decide to go what we are having and it is probably the exact same plate we order each time. I am sure the servers laugh after I order some days because there is only three things I rotate between. My burrito is always my go-to, unless I am feeling fancy.

3. Some of the servers know who you are when you walk in the door.

Either by first name or by order they know us. You are the ones that they tell to pick your own seat and already have your drink order placed by the time you sit down.

4. Your boyfriend/ girlfriend puts you on Mexican restaurant restriction on date night.

You drag them there so much, they get tired of eating there. So much so, they flat out say no when you ask to go there on date night. I mean, how does someone get tired of Mexican food to begin with though?

SEE ALSO: The Perfect Skin Color For A Mexican?

5. You can hum some of the songs that come on.

We may not know what they are saying in the song, but we know the song---trust us. We are in there so much we remember them. Don't ask any questions when we start humming.

6. You "have" a parking spot.

Do not park in my parking spot that is not actually my parking spot, but is my parking spot. Got it? Just do not do it. That starts my meal bad when you take my normal spot.

7. You used to hangout there all the time after school.

It was the hangout spot. Forget the nasty school lunch--- everyone goes to eat Mexican after school. It's the cool thing to do and it started your addiction.

8. You always want to introduce new people to your favorite restaurant.

Oh, you aced that exam? Let's go eat at this amazing Mexican restaurant I love! We always want to find people to go there to eat with so we always introduce new people to it.

9. People always pick on you about your addiction.

Yes, I love Mexican food. Go ahead and tag me in all the memes on Facebook about tacos. As long as I have my Mexican food, I am fine with that.

All in all, we LOVE our Mexican food and our go-to restaurants--- so here is your warning. Don't come between me and my Mexican food.

Cover Image Credit: jenaroundtheworld

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If You Have To Mentally Brace Yourself Before Your Starbucks Run, You Aren't Alone

Ordering at Starbucks may seem like a breeze to some, but to others, it is one of the most challenging fears to face when making a simple coffee order.


The idea of walking in to a Starbucks for the first time can seem like a mountainous goal for some. The idea of having to answer multiple questions about hot, iced, blended, with or without foam, what kind of milk you want, the questions seem never ending! To make matters worse, the sizes aren't "normal sizes". I have heard many people become confused solely by the question of whether they want a tall, grande, or venti.

Let me tell ya that Starbucks is a world some refuse to become a part of because of the intimidating coffee addicts who come in and order crazy specific beverages. If you had never been to a location and the customer in front of you ordered a "venti nonfat, skinny, iced vanilla latte with one pump of pumpkin spice flavoring, no whip and cold foam on top" you would probably turn around and walk right back out the door wouldn't you? I probably would.

Luckily, my first experience I just ordered a hot chocolate and no one was in front of me. However, I didn't avoid the giant test questions on added flavors I wanted or if I wanted a specific milk, and whether I wanted any added toppings to it. I guess even the simplest drinks can be complicated.

Nowadays, it seems anyone under the age of 21 can easily walk in to a coffee shop, specifically Starbucks, and make up any order off the top of their head with no struggle, but if you are older, or someone who enjoys simple black coffee, you won't leave Starbucks without getting the nervous sweats.

This goes out to all of those who are nervous to step foot, or maybe have no interest because of the intimidation factor of the coffee shop. I am here to remind you that you are capable of anything, including a barista that will "nail" you with question after question while raising the price with each added request.

I may have made a Starbucks experience sound more dramatic than it truly is, but to some, it seems to be an impossible mountain to overcome. Hence, the popularity and draw towards coffee from home. Well, that and the fact that it doesn't cost $5 a cup. Either way, some try to avoid a Starbucks store at all costs for the crazy "youngins" that come in ordering fancy drinks each day.

One person that explains a true Starbucks experience the best is actor and comedian, Kevin Hart. If you have not seen his segment on his first Starbucks visit, then you should check it out. Right now. You find something so relatable to your coffee related life.

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