Consumers and therefore manufacturers try to be as careful as possible to make sure the ingredients they use are wholesome and safe to eat especially if they follow Islamic dietary laws (halal). Manufacturers who use cheese ingredients in their production seek to work with halal certified suppliers to maintain compliance.
And Halal consumers using cheese in the kitchen, may not always think about what went into the milk to separate the curd from the whey. Many cheeses are made from animal rennet, which may or may not be healthy or clean. Halal cheese and other vegetarian cheeses are made with plant-based or microbial enzymes to separate the curd needed to make the cheese.
Where Does Rennet Come From?
Animal rennet is a combination of enzymes that are produced in the stomachs of certain mammals. The main component is chymosin, which, along with other enzymes, curdles the milk. This is not suitable for halal cheese because there is no guarantee of how the cow was slaughtered and even if the rennet is from a cow or other animal.
Other rennet types include:
- Plant-based derived from thistles, nettles, and other plants
- Microbial enzymes derived from yeast and fungi
- Genetically-modified sources
Manufacturers use the type of rennet that sells cheese. If it is important to appeal to vegetarians and Muslims, the manufacturers will use plant-based or microbial rennet.
Why Does Cheese Rind Matter?
You may throw away the rind and not give it another thought. If you purchase halal-certified cheese, you won’t have a problem.
If you are unable to source halal-certified cheese your next best choice is a cheese that is manufactured suitable for vegetarians. However, you will need to check the rind creation. Some natural rinds are created by whipping the surface of the wheel with lard, olive or vegetable oil, or sometimes wine or beer.
How to Know?
Rather than study all the elements of cheese making, you can be sure you are eating halal cheese by looking for a halal certification mark on the package. These certifications are important because reading the ingredients alone may not be enough. The manufacturer may change the rennet type without informing Muslim consumers. Vegetarians and halal consumers can stay safe by finding the certification.
By choosing cheese products that are halal-certified, you help support the halal industry and encourage manufacturers interested in serving the halal consumer. These products have gone through the proper channels to make sure they are halal.
Other Dairy Products: Whey, Yogurt & Dairy-based Desserts
Cheese is not the only important dairy product that requires halal certification. Yogurt, whey, and many dairy desserts are also popular products that are manufactured similarly to cheese.
Many yogurt products are thickened using gelatin, which can come from many sources. If it is derived from beef or pork, it must be certified halal to be considered permissible to consume. While animal-derived gelatin can be replaced with fish gelatin or plant thickeners, halal certification will offer much-needed peace of mind to halal consumers concerned about what’s in their food. And because yogurt is a staple of regions where halal diets comprise the majority—such as the Middle East and Northern Africa—it becomes that much more important to indicate that yogurt manufacturers certify their products.
Whey protein represents one of the fastest growing and most profitable industries on the market. But while whey on its own is halal, it is also manufactured using rennet—which, if you remember, can be processed with animal-based enzymes. Therefore, whey also must be certified in order to ensure it is consumable.
Dairy treats such as ice cream and cakes are more difficult to certify since they often contain a long list of ingredients. Without certification, halal consumers usually resort to doing the safer thing by deciding not to purchase any dessert in case it is made with gelatin, lard, or alcohol-based flavorings. Certification saves halal consumers from the trouble having to decide whether their desserts are consumable or not.
American Halal Foundation
With the industrialization of food manufacturing and the complications of processing, handling, packaging, and storing food over the centuries, it became more and more difficult to verify food. American Halal Foundation (AHF) has decades of experience examining and certifying halal products, including cheese. As members of the World Halal Food Council (WHFC), and we can help any manufacturer that seeks internationally recognized halal certification.
Today, our symbol is recognized around the world for epitomizing integrity, wholesomeness, and authenticity for halal-compliant food. This means consumers don’t need to read labels and wonder.
If you are a cheese or dairy business, call American Halal Foundation at +1 (630) 759-4981 for more information on how to become halal-certified today.