Answering the question, “What’s for dinner?” unvaryingly leads to more questions. The modern food culture web is continuously branching and growing in complexity as dietary preferences of consumers worldwide are being influenced by geographic location, protein choices, lifestyle trends, ethnic backgrounds, seasonal availability, and a factor that directs one’s inner compass—religious beliefs.
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Explore this issueAugust/September 2018
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With over 4,000 (and growing) religions being observed, several sects and doctrines bridge food with faith and spirituality. Devout followers of influential religions such as Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism, to name a few, make intentional food choices to satisfy their nutritional requirements and respect the religious laws. This impacts food safety and quality management systems from harvesting, slaughtering, or sourcing to food packaging and labeling.
There is a growing need for food businesses to ensure religious compliance, apart from meeting established health and safety standards. A few revered religion-based dietary labels include the following.
Halal. Followers of Islam observe two broad food categories, namely halal (Arabic for those that are permitted) and haram (those that are forbidden). While halal and haram are universal terms that apply to all facets of a Muslim’s life, this categorization is commonly used in relation to food and beverage products, food contact materials, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals. Haram foods include pork and porcine byproducts, alcohol, and products that may contain enzymes or emulsifiers made from haram animal fats such as lard, porcine gelatin, or fats derived from animals not slaughtered following the Islamic laws. Food products fermented by yeast and that contain hints of alcohol also fall under the haram category. The way in which an animal is slaughtered prior to processing is pivotal according to religious guidelines and needs to be carried out by a skilled and trained Muslim slaughterer. In addition to this, meat, poultry, and seafood need to be derived from animals and fish fed vegetarian feed for them to be certified as halal. According to the report released by the World Halal Forum in 2015, halal foods account for 16 percent of the global food industry and this number is expected to grow significantly by 2020.
About Judy Sebastian
Judy Sebastian, Food Quality & Safety's blogger, has a dual specialization in public health and safety and organizational development. Equipped with over 10 years of experience in food safety systems implementation, workplace culture assessments, and talent development strategies, she is passionate about global food culture and how it impacts our daily lives. Judy is a certified trainer and consultant with Dubai-based consultancy Apex Food Consultants and is currently based in Portland, Ore. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.