Halal and Kosher Food

One of the effects of globalisation is that many different cultures come together. The demand for kosher or halal food that arises in this context creates new challenges for the western food industry. Kosher and halal food regulations prohibit the consumption of pork, for instance, which means that many German products are simply off-limits for Islamic and Jewish consumers. This not only applies to meat products, but also to foods that contain pork gelatine – such as cakes, gummy bears, joghurt, blancmange and jellies.

We use a sensitive PCR method to detect pork and substances from other animal species in halal and kosher foods. We also test food products for alcohol residues.

Halal and haram: allowed and forbidden foods in Islam

The Muslim food regulations are specified in the Koran and the Sunna. Foods that comply with these requirements are “halal“. Allowed are all foods except for those listed below, which are regarded as "haram”. In terms of commercial law, “halal” has been described in the Codex Alimentarius since 1997. Although a uniform halal certificate is aimed for at the international level, there are currently many certificates from various bodies, the acceptance of which may vary a great deal due to different halal interpretations.

Forbidden animal products

  • pork and wild boar
  • dogs, snakes, monkeys
  • carnivorous animals with claws and teeth, such as tigers, lions and bears
  • birds with claws, such as eagles or vultures
  • “pests” such as rats, scorpions, centipedes
  • animals that, according to Islamic belief, must not be killed, such as ants, bees, woodpeckers
  • animals that are ”generally repulsive”, such as lice, flies or maggots
  • animals that live both in the water and on the land, such as frogs or crocodiles
  • mules and native donkeys
  • poisonous and dangerous animals that live in the water
  • all animals that were not killed in compliance with Islamic law
  • blood

Forbidden plant products, beverages and additives

  • all intoxicating and dangerous plants
  • all intoxicating and dangerous beverages, incl. alcohol
  • all additives gained from the previously mentioned products

Rules for halal slaughter

Halal not only refers to the foods consumed. There are also rules for slaughter specified in the Codex Alimentarius. Ritual slaughtering must be done by a Muslim person, and the name of Allah must be spoken prior to the slaughter of each animal. The use of a tape in this context was met with a great deal of criticism. Next, the windpipe, gullet, main arteries and veins of the throat area of the live animal are cut in a single swipe using a sharp knife. Appropriate application of electronic stunning on the animals before slaughter is nowadays accepted by numerous certification agencies.

Kosher foods: permitted and forbidden foods in Judaism

The foods allowed for consumption (kosher) according to Jewish dietary rules are specified in the Tora. Here foods are categorized as meat (Hebrew: basari), dairy (Hebrew: chalawi) or neutral (parve) foods. Simultaneous consumption of dairy and meat products is not allowed.

The following foods are considered kosher

  • meat from ruminant animals with cloven hoofs, e.g. cows, goats and sheep1
  • domestic poultry slaughtered according to the Jewish ritual: chicken, ducks, turkeys, geese, doves
  • eggs from kosher animals without traces of blood
  • fish that have fins and scales, e.g. salmon, trout, tuna2, 3
  • milk and dairy products from kosher animals4

1 other animals, such as pigs, horses, camels, hares, insects are forbidden
2 not kosher are eels, whales and all crustaceans (lobster, crabs, mussles)
3 fish eggs and fish oil are only kosher if they are from kosher fish
4 except for dairy products made using rennet, such as hard cheese or whey

Rules for ritual slaughter

The act of slaughtering must be done according to a specific ritual specified in the Jewish rules. This ritual is performed without prior anaesthesia of the animals and hence prohibited according to § 4a of the German Animal Welfare Act. However, exceptional permission may be granted to certain religious communities. Slaughter may be carried out by a specially trained person (“shochet”) only. This person speaks a blessing, and then cuts the windpipe, gullet and carotid artery in a single swipe using a sharp knife. After slaughtering, the animal is opened in order to inspect its health condition. Before further processing, the meat is sprinkled with salt to withdraw the remaining blood. Certain fats and the animal’s sinew of the hip are removed and not eaten.