Alcoholic Crisps Irk UK Muslims

CAIRO — British Muslims have reacted with anger to know that certain
types of crisps produced by a major snack food manufacturer contain
traces of alcohol, hitting out at the producer for disregarding Muslim
religious sensibilities.

“Certainly we would find it very offensive to have eaten food with
alcohol,” Shuja Shafi, who chairs the food standards committee of the
Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), told the Times on Friday, February 22.

The issue came to the light after a Muslim customer told the owner of a
halal supermarket in Bradford that several types of Walkers crisps were

“A customer informed us that Sensations Thai Sweet Chilli, Doritos
Chilli Heat Wave and Quavers Cheese are not on Walkers’ alcohol-free
list,” said Besharat Rehman, the supermarket owner.

“As soon as I found out about the alcohol in them, I called home to ask my wife to throw out all the packets.”

There is no unanimity, in effect, on food or soft drinks containing minute traces of alcohol.

Some scholars totally forbid any percentage of alcohol in drinks,
arguing that it permeates the entire drink and change its qualities.

But scientists and scholars from the Islamic Food Council agree that
from 0.01 to 0.05 percentage is insignificant and therefore the product
can be considered halal.

No Excuse

Walkers tried to excuse itself by insisting that it used minute amounts of alcohol to extract flavors.

A spokesperson for the snack food manufacturer told the Times on Friday
that there was nothing the firm could do about listing the traces of
alcohol in some of their products.

“There is not enough room on the packaging to list things beyond allergy-causing ingredients that can make people ill.”

But Rehman, the Bedford supermarket owner, said Walkers should have
made it clear on the packaging no matter how miniature alcohol is used
so that the customer can make an informed choice.

“I have let my customers down simply because such a big company like Walkers is not sensitive to Muslim needs.”

Masood Khawaja, of the Halal Food Authority, said Walkers should have
looked into the matter and solved it instead of hiding behind labeling

“It does not matter what percentage of alcohol is involved. Besides
Muslims, there are a lot of teetotal people who would not like to
consume alcohol in any form,” Khawaja said.

The Muslim halal activist said his society has been lobbying for halal symbols on popular products like Kellogg’s cereals.

In 2004, the UK Muslim Law Council has given the Muslim minority —
estimated at some two million — the go-ahead to buy soft drinks
containing tiny traces of alcohol and pork by-products.

The council, Britain’s highest authority on halal food, has issued a
fatwa making Lucozade and Ribena the first British soft drinks fit for
Muslims, following deep Muslim concerns about ingredients in the brands.