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Which sweets are halal? An explanation & list

As a Muslim in Germany, you are often faced with the challenge of whether or not your sweets are halal - that is, permitted under Islamic law. This article explains in an understandable way which food additives in sweets are forbidden (haram) for Muslims. Thus, parents can learn which sweets Muslim children are allowed to eat, for example, to celebrate a birthday party. At the end of this article you will find a list of candy brands that can be consumed by Muslims without hesitation.

Basically, everything that is not explicitly forbidden (haram) is permitted (halal) in Islam. What are ingredients in sweets that are explicitly forbidden and therefore may not be consumed by Muslims? A list:

  • Porcine gelatin
  • Carmine (E120)
  • Shellac (E904)
  • Cysteine (E920/921)
  • Ethanol alcohol
  • Cross contamination

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Pig gelatin - the binder for sweets

Gelatin is used in the manufacture of confectionery to gel and achieve a certain texture and as a binding agent. Gelatin is produced by boiling out bones, hides, eyes, cartilage and ligaments from animals. In Europe, 80% of edible gelatin comes from pigs and thus finds its way into candy. This is problematic for Muslims, as the Koran explicitly forbids the consumption of pork. Sura 5, verse states:

"Forbidden to you is (the consumption of) dead bodies, blood, swine's flesh, and that over which a (name) other than Allah(s) has been invoked, and (the consumption of) asphyxiated, slain, fallen to death, or thrust down, and that which has been torn by a wild animal - ..."

Alternatively, beef gelatin can be used in sweets. However, beef gelatin is only suitable for Muslims if the gelatin comes from a cow that has been slaughtered according to Islamic specifications.

Another alternative are sweets completely without gelatine. However, we describe in this article why vegan sweets do not have to be halal.


Carmine (E120) - the dye from lice  

Carmine is a food additive and is obtained by drying out and cooking lice. The female aphids used for this purpose come from Central America and are called cochineal scale insects. Carmine is used in candy as a red colorant. It should be noted that carmine is the only colorant of animal origin. Carmine is also called "true carmine", carminic acid or cochineal elsewhere. It is controversial among scholars whether carmine is halal or haram. Due to the unresolved issue and the uncertainty associated with it, we do not recommend the consumption of carmine.


Shellac (E904) - the excrement of the lacquer scale insect

Shellac is an excrement of the lacquer scale insect, which occurs in Central America. The consistency of shellac resembles resin. The female lacquer scale insect feeds and replenishes itself with the sap of trees and plants. This sap changes into varnish in the body of the louse. From this varnish the louse forms a shell for her eggs until the young hatch from the egg and bore out of the varnish layer. The excretion of the louse, called shellac, is scraped from the trees, boiled up and processed into the food additive E904 shellac. Used shellac (E904) in candy as a coating agent to provide glazing and binding.

The classification of shellac as haram or halal is disputed among scholars. The scholars who classify shellac as haram justify this with the prohibition of eating excrement.

Still other scholars classify shellac as halal. Scholars at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, for example, say that the extraction of shellac is similar to the extraction of honey, where the sap of the bee is converted into honey.


Cysteine (E920/E921) - sometimes contains pig bristles

Cysteine is a food additive and is often called cystine, L-cysteine or L-cystine. Cysteine can be obtained synthetically or from keratin. The keratin needed for cysteine can be obtained from horns, feathers, hair or pig bristles. The EU banned the use of human hair for the extraction of keratin or cysteine in 2011. 

Cysteine is used to break down the gluten contained in flour. This makes it easier to knead the dough. In addition, it prevents the dough from sticking to the machines, and production is faster. Thus, cysteine can be found in bread, rolls and various pasta products. Since cysteine does not necessarily always have to contain pig bristles, you should ask the manufacturer more precisely about the production if cytein (E920/E921) is stated in the ingredients.


Ethanol - Alcohol in flavor

Flavors are used in the food industry to give foods such as sweets a certain fragrance or taste. It often happens that these flavors have ethanol or alcohol as a carrier.


Cross contamination - the contamination due to mixing of traces.

Even if candy does not contain any of the above ingredients, there is a risk that the candy will not be considered halal if there is cross-contamination. In the case of cross-contamination, candy may be produced in industrial facilities where non-halal products (containing pig, for example) are also produced. In this case, a transfer of "non-halal" traces to the candy takes place, which means that the candy cannot be classified as "halal".

     Here you can buy halal sweets .

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