Wednesday, September 23, 2009

SPOTLIGHT: Altoids© Mints

SPOTLIGHT HALAL Magazine provides North American Muslims with practical information about food choices. Please ChipIn your support. Shukran.


Altoids© mints contain gelatin sourced from pigs and other animals. Some varieties contain shellac, made from insect cocoons. Try our recipe for Italian Toasted Almond Biscotti!

Altoids are a popular brand of breath mints marketed under the slogan "The Original Celebrated Curiously Strong Mints." Though the brand is owned by Wrigley, the confections have been manufactured and produced by Callard & Bowser-Suchard in Wales, the United Kingdom, since the early 1800's.[1]

Altoids mints are much stronger than typical mints; the secret of their strength lies in the use of real peppermint oil in the recipe. Because of this strong mintiness, Altoids are often chosen as a breath freshener as well as an after-coffee mint. Altoids mints are currently available in eight flavors: peppermint, wintergreen, spearmint, cinnamon, ginger, liquorice, chocolate, and crème de menthe.

All Altoid mints, including Chocolate-Covered Altoids contain: SUGAR, GUM ARABIC, ARTIFICIAL OR NATURAL FLAVOR (OIL OF PEPPERMINT), and GELATIN.[2] Chocolate-Covered Altoids contain CONFECTIONER'S GLAZE, another name for shellac which is made from crushed and processed insect cocoons.[3] Shellac is used as a glaze on food and medicine to provide a shiny coating. Its E Number is E904.

Altoid Sours, Altoid Gum, and Altoid Mini products do not contain gelatin or shellac.

Gelatin (gelatine, E-Number: E441) is a translucent, colorless, brittle, nearly tasteless solid substance, derived from the collagen inside animals' skin and bones. It is commonly used as a gelling agent in food, medicine, and cosmetics.

Materials used in gelatin production

Gelatin is derived mainly from pig skins, pork and cattle (cow) bones, or split cattle hides. On a commercial scale, gelatin is made from by-products of the meat and leather industry.

Gelatin is extracted from animal skin and bones by boiling them in water or acid. This dissolves and releases the gelatin from skin tissue, tendons and cartilage. The gelatinous liquid is then filtered to remove impurities such bits of blood, meat and hair that would affect the appearance, taste and texture of the final product. The liquid is then evaporated and dried into sheets and ground into powder.[4]

We've heard some Muslims contend that gelatin is halal because it has "gone through a purification process." However, as Muslims, it is important for us to refer to food import regulations of Islamic countries. These are established by experts on Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) following a thorough examination of food production practices. Saudi Arabia bans foods containing ingredients derived from pork, including (pork) gelatin. However, Saudi Arabia allows gelatin from permissible (halal) animals to be in food products, so long as product labeling declares the animal source.[5]

Muslims in the United States should consider all gelatin as coming from swine, unless a product's labeling states the source animal (ex.: 'fish gelatin'). U.S. Law makes it illegal to misstate the source animal on product labeling. AVOID products listing 'kosher gelatin' unless that product also carries kosher certification. The term 'kosher' itself has no legal definition under U.S. law, because of "separation of church and state." The term 'kosher' can legally be used on product packaging as manufacturers see fit. Most use the term as a marketing tool to win consumers to their product.

[ Read about what is required for gelatin to be certified as kosher here. ]

We rate any foods that contains both pork (or a pig-derived product) and vermin as PORK-HAWWAM. HAWWAM (هوام), is an Arabic word collectively referring to vermin — insects, rodent, reptiles, snails, frogs, worms, spiders and other crawling, slithering animals — the consumption of which Islamic Law forbids.

SPOTLIGHT HALAL, rates Altoids minds as PORK-HAWWAM because the gelatin used in Altoids is derived from pig parts and; because Chocolate-Covered Altoids contain pharmaceutical glaze, another term for shellac.

At SPOTLIGHT HALAL, our Guiding Principle is to provide the diverse Muslim communities living in Western countries with practical information about the wide range of food choices they face on a daily basis, but from an Islamic perspective. We don’t say a food is haram or halal; we say: "This food is made with alcohol and pork," or, "That food normally contains chicken." Whether or not you observe zabihah, our flexible and informative approach allows you to make informed decisions on what to buy and eat.

[1] Wikipedia: Altoids. (March 5, 2009)
[2] U.S. Nutrition Information: Altoids. Wrigley web site. (March 5, 2009)
[3] Spotlight Halal: Shellac.
[4] Wikipedia: Gelatin. (March 5, 2009)
[5] USDA Gain Report: "Saudi Arabia: Food and Agricultural Import Regulations and Standards" [ PDF], 2006.