Halal QA: Pectin
What is pectin and is it a safe ingredient for Muslims to consume?
Additives and artificial ingredients in processed foods often have names that tell consumers little about where the ingredient came from. If you’re following a halal diet, you want to be sure that none of the ingredients you eat are derived from animal products. Some foods with a gelatin-like consistency, such as jams, are usually safe to eat, while some others are not.
If you’re following a halal diet, you’ll be avoiding many, if not all, animal products unless you’re sure that it’s from halal sources — which in North America, is difficult to come by. A tip is to stick with ingredients that are suitable for vegetarians. There are a few different types of vegetarian diets, so keep that in mind when you’re looking at different ingredients.
Safe to Eat
Pectin is a gelatin-like ingredient that is commonly used to thicken and gel jams, jellies and preserves. It’s found naturally in fruits such as apples, plums, gooseberries and oranges. Pectin is extracted from these fruits with heat and acid and then processed into a liquid or powder that you can buy to can preserves at home. It’s a water-soluble compound that absorbs liquid, which is why it’s helpful for setting jellies.
Because pectin is derived from fruits and has no added ingredients, it’s suitable for anyone following a halal, vegetarian or vegan diet. However, not every food that contains pectin is necessarily something vegetarians would want to eat. Some milk products, yogurts, beverages, protein drinks or health products contain pectin as a thickener, but such items may or may not be allowed depending on the other ingredients they may have. Read the labels of all foods to look for ingredients you want to avoid.
Not to be Confused with Gelatin
Not all foods with a gelatinous nature are made with pectin. For example, gelatin is often used to thicken desserts, soups, candies and jellies. Unlike fruit-derived pectin, gelatin is not something a Muslim following a halal diet wants to consume. It’s a protein made from processing beef or pork bones, cartilage, tendons and tissues. If a product contains gelatin, you’ll want to avoid it unless it’s certified halal.
This article was originally published in Halal Foodie Magazine, Summer 2015