Are products containing cochineal and alcohol-based vanilla essence Halal?
If a product contains cochineal and vanilla essence (alcohol based) is it halal to consume?
Wa alaykum salam.
Let me address the cochineal question here and insha Allah I will address the question on alcohol based vanilla essence separately.
Cochineal is a bright red substance used to make food dye.
It originates from a small insect native to Mexico, Central America, and other warm regions.
It is starting to be used more frequently and can be found in drinks, chocolates, biscuits, savouries like chips etc.
The majority of scholars including the Hanafi, Shafi’i and Hanbali jurists, consider the consumption of insects as not permissible except for locusts (grasshoppers) which are permissible according to the hadith;
أحلَّت لَكُم ميتتانِ…
The above extract of the hadith allows for the consumption of locusts and it also mentions two types of animals that can be eaten without the usual requirement of slaughtering ie fish and locusts.
There is some latitude regarding the consumption of insects within the Maliki school, however there are certain conditions to be fulfilled for these insects to be considered halal.
How should the insects be killed?
Although these insects do not need to be slaughtered per se according to the conventional method however the condition is that the insects were killed with an intention of making them fit for consumptions (dhakat), much like the slaughtering of a sheep or cow. [Khalil, Al-Mukhtasar]
This includes the slaughterman fulfilling the conditions of being a Muslim, saying Bismillah etc.
The production of Carmine, by collecting the Cochineal insects and soaking them in hot water to produce a dye that is also used for non food industries does not seem to fulfill these conditions due to the following reasons;
1. The uncertainty of the status of the slaughterman. Is he a believer, idol worshipper or atheist?
2. The absence of the recitation of Bismillah.
3. The absence of intention at the time of killing. Ie these insects are killed halal for the purpose of eating.
Based on the above it would not be permissible to consume foods with carmine even according to the Maliki madhab which is the most lenient on this issue and it is not permissible at all according to the other schools.
Allah knows best.
Shaykh Mohammed Shakeeb