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As the hot summer looms once again, many of us will find ourselves
reaching for the ‘fridge to pull out an ice-cooled drink, satisfying
our thirst, and keeping hydration levels to within tolerable limits.
But how much do we actually know about the drinks we heartily guzzle?
Do we know how they were made, and most importantly, whether they are
suitable for us as Muslims?
If you call your Granny over one day, and persuade her to squeeze some
fresh apple juice, you’ll soon notice that the juice becomes cloudy,
which is perfectly normal. If you do a comparison test and buy some
apple juice from the corner-shop however, you’ll notice that the
pre-packaged juice doesn’t seem to be cloudy at all ? in fact it seems
quite clear and transparent in comparison.
Now the real story begins if you take note of the ingredients listed on
the pack of apple juice from the shop. It’ll read “100% pure Apple
Juice” with no extra added ingredients. But hang on a moment ?
something can’t be right. Our home-made 100% pure apple juice is
cloudy, but the pure apple juice from the shop is not. Clearly, there’s
more to this than meets the eye.
The problem here is that of “processing aids”, as they are known in the
food industry. Several fruit juices, including apple juice, are
filtered through tiny beads of gelatine, often from pig sources, before
being bottled, so that they remain clear and appear more pleasing to
the consumer. And because the gelatine is simply used as a processing
aid and not actually added to the final product, it doesn’t have to
appear on the list of ingredients. In essence, we have a problem, and a
big sticky one at that.
We contacted GlaxoSmithKline, the maker of drinks such as Ribena, who
explained that “gelatine is sometimes used as a processing aid to
clarify certain fruit juices which are naturally cloudy when the fruit
is pressed, most commonly apple and cranberry juices and therefore the
apple and cranberry variants of Ribena.”
Hence, the Ribena flavours which include apple or cranberry juice are
“not described as animal free”, together with Ribena Toothkind
(concentrate), and the C-Vit Multivitamin No Added Sugar Blackcurrant
Juice (concentrate) ranges, according to a representative of the
company. Other sources indicate that pig gelatine is the most likely
source of the filter used for these products.
They stress however, that the original plain Blackcurrant flavour
Ribena, along with a few other flavours, contain no animal derived
ingredients. Allah Ta’ala knows best, and you are best advised to
confirm with the company before consuming these products.
Similarly, Libbys Apple and Berry C Juice uses pork gelatine as a
processing aid while Ocean Spray Grapefruit Juice uses gelatine from
Kia-Ora, a juice drink popular with kids, uses a gelatine stabiliser in
their plain Orange and Orange and Pineapple drinks, and gelatine is
also used in the processing of juices in the Kia-Ora Mixed Fruit, Pear,
and Blackcurrant varieties. Although these are currently reported to
use fish as a source of the gelatine filter (fish gelatine is Halal),
there is no guarantee that the manufacturers will not switch to a haram
source of gelatine in case of supply problems or favourable economic
conditions, for example.
Lilt (Pineapple and Grapefruit) and Fanta, both bottled by the Coca
Cola Company, are also confirmed to have been manufactured using
gelatine as a processing aid, ostensibly also with fish based gelatine.
Bear in mind however, that like above, they can change the source of
raw material at any time, without informing Muslim consumers.
The Director for the Research and Process Development Department at
Borthwicks Flavours, a large company who supply juice concentrates to
many different soft drinks manufacturers, thought it unlikely that most
apple juice concentrate manufacturers could offer absolute assurance of
gelatine not being used for clarification.
Viable alternatives to using gelatine do exist.
For example, Somerfield, when asked about their apple juice, explained
the ?Somerfield apple juice from concentrate supplied by Princes has
been clarified using ultrafiltration, not gelatine? confirming that
they are using a new alternative to the historical usage of gelatine
for processing. However, it has yet to be determined whether Princes is
the only supplier of concentrate for Somerfield, or whether it is just
one of many, and it also has yet to be confirmed whether Princes itself
can guarantee that gelatine is not used, even in situations of supply
shortages, for example.
Unless we speak out and voice our dissatisfaction, manufacturers are
unlikely to feel the economic pressure which may encourage them to
consider accommodating Muslim consumers.
Let us try our best to make sure that what we consume is halal and
tayyab, for the purity of what enters our stomach determines the purity
of the actions our limbs perform. However, this article shouldn’t make
you too worried, since many packaged Apple juices don’t use gelatine at
all. Just be aware that some do. Given the difficulty in obtaining
reliable information from companies, the best advice for avoiding
gelatine hidden in fizzy drinks and fruit juices is probably to steer
clear of those listing apple juice, cranberry juice, or beta-carotene
as ingredients. In the mean-time, give Granny a call, and let her teach
you how they used to make fresh, sweet, and tayyab juice in days gone
Note from Yasin – added on 30/03/2006 @ 21:06pm