Halal is an Arabic word defined as "legal" or "lawful," and refers to a strict diet often followed by Muslims. Foods that are of the earth or natural are essential to this type of diet. Typically, all ingredients will come from fish, plants, and vegetables. Some halal ingredients are from meat, but the meat must be slaughtered according to specific rules.
Traditional rules dictate that fat-based halal ingredients must be made solely of fat from vegetables, such as mono and diglyceride fats. Most of the time "vegetable" is placed before the fat name. Vegetable fats that were altered in the lab are not considered halal ingredients.
Those halal ingredients used in flavoring, such as vanilla or turmeric, must also be processed in a specific way. Vanilla beans along with vanillin, the aromatic compound from vanilla beans, are both considered halal, as alcohol is not used in their production. Other types of vanilla flavoring are not considered halal, as they are processed with alcohol, which is strictly prohibited. When emulsifiers are added to tumeric, the spice is not used. It is only considered acceptable if the emulsifier comes from a plant, but not from animals.
Many preservatives are halal, depending on the source and manufacturing process. Preservatives such as the hydroxybenzoates are not, because they use alcohol solvents to process. Another preservative, calcium benzoate, can be consumed if the chemical was obtained from minerals, and not bones.
Several ingredients can be consumed as long as they are not a wine by-product. Many tartrates are obtained after grape fermentation, which is prohibited for those following this diet. Tartaric acid, cream of tartar and sodium tartrates may only be considered halal if they are not a result of grape fermentation.
Flavor enhancers can be problematic, as the chemicals used may be grown on culture media using pork fat. It is important to discover how monosodium glutamate, calcium glutamate and monopotassium glutamate flavor enhancers are produced as well. Manufacturers can often provide this information.
Certain individuals, typically Muslims, choose to follow a halal diet. Not all food products are marked as halal, so the ingredients must be carefully analyzed. Foods must be natural and come from plants, or from meat that was treated humanely in order to receive this designation. At times, the source of the compound and processing techniques will help to determine whether a specific ingredient may be considered halal.