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Halal Foods: What You Should Know

Author: Rawan Aljbour, RD | Niagara North Family Health Team

Posted: October 19, 2021

Working as a Dietitian you need to be always listening and learning; cultural competence in the dietary laws from Islamic teaching is one of those components.

Whenever I am asked about my goals, I say that when it comes to nutrition, my goal is to increase inclusivity by targeting a population that is typically underrepresented. We all have the opportunity to learn how and what to eat to meet our mental, physical, social, and cultural needs. Incorporating my cultural influences has helped me provide nutrition recommendations that my clients can follow, helping their families eat healthier as well.

Fasting for Ramadan, which lasts for 30 days, is an important part of life for millions of Muslims across the globe. Nevertheless, Muslims observe dietary laws that are derived from Islamic teachings. That means teaching a Mediterranean diet with a recommendation of 1 glass of wine with meals, will not be appropriate for Muslim patients. As well as recommend supplements that may have gelatin will be also not culturally competent.

Living in Canada as a Muslim means you need to read labels before buying products! Have you ever read labels for halal? Is Halal the same as Kosher?

Halal yogurts; Is this candy halal; Does this cake have gelatin; Is this supplement halal? All these questions you must ask yourself before buying or recommending any product?

Grocery shopping in Canada needs more time than living in Islamic countries. In Islamic countries all foods are halal, and you don’t have to ask for no bacon on Sandwiches OR reading labels while shopping which is taking an extra time. Here you will find information to help you prepare and serve meals as well as snacks as well as refreshments to the Muslim community.

What is the meaning of Halal?

Halal is an Arabic expression in Islam that means permitted, allowed. Its antonym is Haram. According to the dietary rules of Islam, halal refers to the foods that are good for Muslim consumption. Food that is permissible for Muslims to consume is called “Halal” food. The vast majority in the Western countries are familiar with the word “Kosher”. However, it isn’t the same thing.

A brief description of each category of Haram food:

  • The meat of an animal not slaughtered by a Muslim or by a member of the People of the Book according to Mosaic Law is forbidden. For instance, if someone who does not believe in God performs the slaughter, the meat is forbidden.

  • A Muslim cannot eat the meat of a dead animal that died before it was slaughtered. All meats of dead animals are prohibited as carrion. Unless it is dead fish, all seafood can be eaten. That’s why when we are travelling, we love to eat seafood as it is the safest way to eat halal foods.

  • Bacon, lard, ham, and other foods derived from pork are prohibited. That includes foods such as gelatin and pepsin. Gelatin is usually made from the skin and bones of animals. Gelatin itself is not prohibited – for example, for making pastry dough. The consumption of halal gelatin, for example, is possible from cows; sheep, and other animals slaughtered by religious requirements.

  • Only halal cheese can be consumed as cheese requires enzymes, pepsin, etc., derived from pork. Furthermore, certain types of bread, cookies, doughnuts, cakes, and other baked goods may contain lard.

  • Meat of carnivores is haram (not permissible). Muslims can eat any animal species that do not consume meat or birds, such as lamb, goat, deer, and others.

  • Food and beverages containing alcohol or alcoholic by-products are considered haram. Even, if using alcohol for marinated meat. Some people said it is already evaporated when cooking but still Haram.

  • All forms of flowing blood and their derivatives are prohibited.

  • Any halal food, which was not kept isolated from haram food and was contaminated, cannot be consumed.

  • The sacrifice of food or meat to any god other than Allah.

The Background Behind the Process of Slaughtering

  • They are slaughtered by a believer in Allah.

  • At the time of slaughter, the slaughterman recites, “I begin with Allah’s name and Allah is the Greatest,” or at the very least, “I begin with Allah’s name.” Muslims must mention Allah’s name while slaughtering because it is an act of worship.

  • Slaughtering should be done with a very sharp knife, which manually swiftly cuts the esophagus, trachea, and the two jugular veins of the animal in a single cut. The reason for using a sharp knife is to not let the cattle feeling a lot of pain before dying. If he couldn’t cut all four, he must cut at least any three of them OR by machine slaughter.

My aim in this blog post for Islamic Heritage Month is to share my cultural influences to support PCDA members and RD2B provide nutrition recommendations that their clients can follow, helping their families eat healthier as well.

October is Canadian Islamic History Month

The PCDA encourages our dietitian members and RD2B to learn more about the history of Islam in Canada; recognize the many achievements and acknowledge the challenges of Muslim Canadians.

Thank you to Rawan for sharing her expertise and knowledge.

For more information, check out these additional resources:

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