Keeping it Kosher with Halal Cheese
How do I know which cheese is halal in a “regular” grocery store?
A few years ago, many Muslims didn’t look into what was in their cheese because they weren’t aware of the enzymes that are added to help with the cheese-making process. More of us are now aware but it makes the hunt for halal cheese very hard. We have some tips to help you pick out cheeses that suit your dietary restrictions – right from your neighbourhood grocery store.
Halal Labelled Cheese
Halal South Asian and Middle Eastern ethnic stores have been selling halal labelled cheese for more than a decade. The word “halal” is clearly written on the package since these products are made with Muslims in mind. It’s wonderful to support these businesses, however, the quality is often less than desirable and the selection is limited to mozzarella in most places.
In the last five years, Pan-Asian grocery retailers like Sunny Food Mart, Blue Sky and T&T have also carried some halal labelled cheese as well. These products are better quality, but still very limited in selection. There’s an obvious gap in the market, and consumers are still waiting for manufacturers and retailers to catch up.
Look out for Enzymes
Not all enzymes are the same. They can be derived from plants, synthetically or from animals. Common enzymes that can be derived from animals are rennet, pepsin and lipase. Microbial enzymes are plant-based which also makes them suitable for vegetarians.
The food industry is finally beginning to recognize “halal” as a dietary restriction followed by a major part of the market. Manufacturers are slowly beginning to cater to the Muslim market by replacing animal by-products with synthetic or plant-sourced alternatives.
Keep it Kosher
When following a Kosher diet, one of the rules is that you cannot mix dairy with any meat or animal by-product such as fats and enzymes — a common ingredient in cheese. Be warned that there are some things that are Kosher, but NOT halal such as alcohol. Luckily, you can find plenty of products that are clearly labelled with a symbol indicating that it is Kosher certified. Here are a few of the many Kosher certification symbols found in Canada: