IRSYAD AL-FATWA SERIES 290: THE RULING OF FOOD COLORING CONTAINING 20% ALCOHOL

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Question:

Assalamualaikum wbt,

I have a question regarding food colouring. As an example, there is a brand of food colouring that contains 20% ethanol. Is it prohibited?

 

Answer:

Waalaikumussalam wbt,

Mukadimah

Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.

The original ruling for ethanol in food is it is an intoxicating chemical. Whatever ingredient that is intoxicating in food is prohibited to be eaten. Ethanol is a scientific name for alcohol. According to the 4th edition of Kamus Dewan, alcohol is a flammable and intoxicating chemical in liquid form. The evidence for its prohibition came from a hadith from Ummul Mukminin, Saiyidatina Aisyah R.Anha, where the Prophet PBUH said:

كُلُّ شَرَابٍ أَسْكَرَ فَهُوَ حَرَامٌ

"All drinks that produce intoxication are Haram (prohibited to drink).”

Sahih al-Bukhari (5236) and Sahih Muslim (2001)

From Jabir RA, the prophet PBUH said:

مَا أَسْكَرَ كَثِيرُهُ فَقَلِيلُهُ حَرَامٌ

"If a large quantity of any beverage intoxicates, then a small amount of it is prohibited." 

Sunan Abu Daud (3681), Sunan al-Tarmizi (1866) and Sunan Ibn Majah (3393)

However, not all food that contains alcohol is considered as intoxicants. There are some food or drinks that when eaten according to the custom is not intoxicating. It is also not considered as najis (impure things according to syarak), for the main purpose of the production of the food is not to produce alcohol, but it is just the by-product of the process. We include the Brunei State Government Fatwa in 2005 (pp. 74-75) which states:

"This means that the impurity (najis) status of alcohol depends on one imperative characteristic of alcohol, which is, it is an intoxicant. It is understood that just because it is alcohol, it is not automatically assumed to be an intoxicant, if it is not taken (extracted) from alcohol, or other intoxicating beverages, for example, tapai (a dessert) is not prohibited, even though according to experts it contains alcohol, for it is not intoxicating."

Hence, although the duty of identifying halal food and beverages is the responsibility of the Muslim community. Development and progress in the food and beverages cause the identification of the ingredients used in them to be complex and require the help of public institutions. Therefore, we refer to the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM; Halal Hub Division), as the responsible body for carrying out halal certification in Malaysia with the state Islamic Religious Department. [2]

The Muzakarah of Fatwa Committee of National Council for Islamic Religious Affairs Malaysia states:

  1. The Muzakarah of the 22nd Malaysian Islamic Religious Affairs Council's Fatwa Committee met on Nov 24th, 1988, discussed the issue of Alcohol as Soft Drink Stabilizer. The Muzakarah has decided that cordial drinks containing added flavours which use alcohol as a stabilizer are permissible to drink if:
  2. Alcohol (as a stabilizer) is not produced from the process of making alcohol.
  3. That the quantity of alcohol in the flavours is a little, which is not intoxicating.
  4. The 7th Malaysian Islamic Religious Affairs Council’s Fatwa Committee convened on 11th – 12th April 1984 discussed Alcohol According to Islamic View. Muzakarah has decided that:
  5. Each alcoholic beverage contains alcohol. Not all alcohol is considered as an intoxicant and prohibited. Alcohol from the process of wine-making (or other processes of making alcoholic beverages) is prohibited and impure (najis), but other alcohols made from processes other than for alcoholic beverages processes is not impure (najis) but is prohibited to be consumed.
  6. Soft drinks made the same way as any liquor, whether it contains a little alcohol or if its alcohol content is distilled is prohibited to be consumed.
  7. Soft drinks made not into liquor or intoxicating substances and not the same as the wine process is halal and permissible.
  8. Tapai is halal and permissible to be eaten.
  9. Alcohol produced as a by-product of the process of making food is not najis (impure) and edible (permissible to be eaten).
  10. Medicines and fragrances that contain alcohol content are permissible.
  • Based on briefings, presentations and explanations presented by experts from the Halal Product Research Institute, Universiti Putra Malaysia and taking into account the decisions that have been decided in the Muzakarah of Fatwa Committee of the National Council for Islamic Religious Affairs Malaysia earlier, the Special Muzakarah of the National Council Fatwa Committee For Malaysia's Islamic Religious Affairs which deals with Alcohol Issues in Food, Drinks, Fragrances and Medicines on 14th to 16th July 2011 have agreed to decide as follows:
  1. Each alcoholic beverage contains alcohol. However, not all alcohol is an alcoholic beverage. Alcohol obtained from the process of making alcoholic beverages is prohibited and najis (impure)
  2. Whereas the alcohol produced through other processes than for making alcoholic beverages is not najis (impure) but prohibited (should not) to be consumed in its original form because it is poisonous and lethal.
  3. Soft drinks that are processed or made not for the purpose of producing liquor and its alcohol content is under 1% v/v, then it is permissible to be consumed.
  4. While for soft drinks made with the same intention and process of making liquor, whether it contains a lot or a little alcohol, or if its alcohol is distilled, it is prohibited to be consumed.
  5. Food or drinks that naturally contain alcohol, for example, fruits, nuts or grains and its extract, or if the alcohol is produced as a by-product of the food or drink-making process is not najis (impure) and is permissible to be consumed.
  6. Foods or drinks that contain added flavour or colouring that contains alcohol as a stabilizer is permissible if it is not produced from the process of making liquor and the alcohol percentage content in the final product is not more than 0.5%.
  7. Medicines and fragrances that contain alcohol as its solvent is not najis (impure) and it is permissible if the alcohol is made not through the process of making liquor

Conclusion

According to the facts and discussion above, we are inclined towards stating that food colouring that contains 20% alcohol is prohibited, for it exceeds the 0.5% set by syarak, even if the alcohol in the food colouring is not produced through the process of making liquor as has been decided by Muzakarah of Fatwa Committee of the National Council for Islamic Religious Affairs Malaysia. It is best that the questioner to ask straight to JAKIM Halal Hub Division for an explanation.

Hopefully, this explanation can give an answer to the questioner.

Endnote:

[1] Refer to http://prpm.dbp.gov.my/Cari1?keyword=alkohol.

[2] http://www.islam.gov.my/bahagian-hab-halal/198-profil


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