Halal is an Arabic word meaning lawful or permitted. The opposite of Halal is haram, which means unlawful or prohibited. Halal and haram are universal terms that apply to all facets of life. However, we will use these terms only in relation to food products, meat products, cosmetics, personal care products, pharmaceuticals, food ingredients, and food contact materials.
While many things are clearly Halal or haram, there are some things which are not clear. Further information is needed to categorize them as Halal or haram. Such items are often referred to as mashbooh, which means doubtful or questionable.
All foods are considered Halal except the following (which are haram):
- Swine/Pork and its by-products
- Animals improperly slaughtered or dead before slaughtering
- Alcoholic drinks and intoxicants
- Carnivorous animals, birds of prey and certain other animals
- Foods contaminated with any of the above products
Foods containing ingredients such as gelatin, enzymes, emulsifiers, and flavors are questionable (mashbooh), because the origin of these ingredients is not known.
For the consumers, the benefits of Halal certification are clear: knowing a product is Halal-certified means he or she does not have to bother checking all the ingredients. The consumer can purchase the product with the assurance it does not contain anything that is haram or doubtful.
For the producers get the expertise of the instructions in reviewing its products, the ingredients, the preparation and processing and the hygiene and sanitation procedures that are requisite in manufacturing said product. Of course, this is all done confidentially, so there is no concern of competitors learning anything about the product(s) involved in the certification process. Further, Halal certification provides an independent third party quality assurance step valued by conscientious consumers.
(Source: Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America )