may not think that religion and technology go together, but that’s the
idea behind a new product developed by one Massachusetts company. Alawy
Incorporated, based in Milton, Massachusetts, has developed a mobile
food search application called “AMNA Mobile” which helps Muslims
observe Islamic dietary standards.
Of the millions of Muslims in America, more than 80% adhere to Islamic dietary
standards, completely avoiding forbidden (haram) substances in their diets, such as
alcohol, pig, blood, insects and animals that are not slaughtered according to Islamic principles. Avoiding pork or alcohol is not so easy. Haram ingredients can be found in every aisle of the typical supermarket, in fruit snacks and candies (insect based food coloring, glaze); gummy candies, granola bars, cereal (porcine gelatin); seafood entrees, ice cream (alcohol); snack chips (pig enzymes), and; toothpaste, gum and dishwasher detergent (animal glycerin).
Food information geared towards the needs of Muslims is often either hard to find, not objective (reflecting a sectarian bias) or impractical.
AMNA Mobile was developed by Alawy to allow Muslims to search 3,000+ foods and
ingredients from the convenience of their cell phones. The idea is to provide practical food information in line with Islamic principles, but without the religious moralizing. Easy to read icons let consumers quickly learn when a food or ingredient contains or is derived from a haram substance, while each food’s description details its ingredients and preparation. This flexible approach lets Muslims make informed food decisions regardless of their own personal practice. All the research and rating of foods are done in- house.
According to LUBICOM, a marketing and consulting group for kosher interests, over 11 million Americans spent $195 billion on kosher food in 2006. Of this group known as the “kosher consumer” Muslims amount to 30%, outnumbering Jewish consumers 3:1.
Despite this fact, Muslims are under-served by kosher food law, which
restricts most seafood, and cheeses (both are halal) but which allows
Alawy also publishes a weekly online magazine, SPOTLIGHT HALAL, which, in its fifth month of publication, already reaches 30-40 thousand halal consumers in North America, including Canada, between its following on Facebook and email readership.
“Every week, there are several requests for us to research one food or another. Even the most ‘lenient’ Muslim is concerned about food purity in a way that most Americans can’t grasp,” says Rachel Alawy, Program Officer. “We are selling convenient access to reliable food information, but what they are really getting is peace-of-mind.”
Information about AMNA Mobile and issues of SPOTLIGHT HALAL magazine can be
found at www.IsItHaram.com. AMNA Mobile is priced at $35 and is currently sold on SD memory card. A downloadable version of the application will be available this summer.
Creators of IsItHaram.com and SPOTLIGHT HALAL magazine