Good News for the Muslim Community:

For the last two years ICNA Relief has been working with the USDA to provide guidance and expertise on expanding halal food options through the emergency food assistance program (TEFAP). One of the steps was to label current halal products, which this webpage does, is the first step. The second step is educating USDA suppliers, distributors, and wholesalers on how the requirements of halal and their items can be certified as halal. Lastly, our end goal is to expand the number of halal protein options. This is the first step in this process and the USDA’s first institutional step to recognize “halal” as a proper food category. We hope this will serve as a bridge to further conversations and bring more community members to the table.

In the future we will be working to educate USDA suppliers, distributors, and wholesalers on the requirements of halal certification. Our ultimate goal is to expand the number of halal protein options in the program.

What does halal mean?

Halal is the Arabic word for something that is permissible or lawful. The word haram means unlawful or prohibited and therefore is used as the opposite of halal. Although usually used in the context of food, the word halal is also used to describe other permissible things. For instance, halal income implies that one earned their money honestly, without cheating, stealing, or usury.

Which foods are halal?

Halal refers to any food product that is not prohibited. In fact, the vast majority of foods are halal and therefore too numerous to list. Almost all non-meat and non-alcoholic foods are halal.

What makes an animal’s meat halal?

When it comes to meat, halal or zabiha simply mean that the animal was slaughtered according to Islamic guidelines. Islam places great emphasis on how an animal’s life ends and how it is to be treated at the time of slaughter. All life, including that of animals, is considered sacred and must be treated humanely. For more on animal rights on Islam check out this article.

This includes mentioning God’s name when slaughtering the animal, slaughtering it by slitting the throat with a sharp object, and draining its blood. One cannot eat an animal that died from electric shock, or by being beaten, stunning, or any other means.

Is there any meat that Muslims cannot consume?

Generally, any animal not killed according to the above criteria is not permissible for Muslims to consume. However, there are some kinds of meats that Muslims are not allowed to consume such as pork. Pork or non-halal meat is not limited to meat products, but this also includes some food items that might contain pork or non-halal meat as an ingredient. For instance, gelatin is often made from non-halal sources such as pork. Gelatin is often used in gummy products, marshmallows, and some desserts. This would make the item prohibited. However, sometimes gelatin comes from halal sources such as fish which makes it halal.

What about seafood?

Seafood is halal and Muslims can generally eat anything from the sea. There are some exceptions to this such as the prohibition of consuming alligator, crocodile, or frog meat.

Check out https://www.fns.usda.gov/tefap/halal for more information on the TEFAP Halal food options and check out https://www.whyislam.org/diet/ for more information about Halal food and why Muslims eat Halal.