Consuming products containing Vanilla essence and Cochineal
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.
Following on to answer your question on alcohol based vanilla essence,
in the Hanafi school there is a dispensation with respect to alcohols that are non-wine, namely, not extracted from grapes, nor from dates or raisins.
On this basis vanilla essence is permitted to use in food and the like, even if there is some incidental remnant of the carrier alcohol.
Likewise it would be permitted to consume drinks that have incidental traces of non-wine alcohol as long as:
a. It is not being used to intoxicate,
b. Not being used as intoxicants are used,
c. Not being used in an amount that intoxicates, and
d. Not being being used for vain purposes.
Some soft drinks like Coke, Pepsi, Bundaberg flavoured drinks and others have been tested with small traces of alcohol found in them. The legal level allowable in a soft drink for it to be labelled as a non alcoholic beverage in Australia is 0.5%.
Note that the dispensation with respect to alcohols applies to those that are non-wine, namely, not extracted from grapes, nor from dates or raisins.
This is based on the position of Abu Hanifa and has been adopted by leading scholars of our time due to the widespread use of non-wine alcohol in both food items and external products (such as soaps or lotions).
As for wine, namely alcohol derived from the fermentation of grapes and dates, it is impermissible to consume in any amount as established by clear primary texts.
However it would be religiously superior, where reasonably possible, to avoid the varieties containing such alcohol in order to respect the difference of opinion of other schools on the matter.
[Maydani, al-Lubab fi Sharh al-Kitab (581); Usmani, Takmilat Fath al-Mulhim(3.342)
Allah knows best.
Shaykh Mohammed Shakeeb