Is Cheetos (Incl. FLAMIN' HOT) HALAL or HARAM In Islam?
You've definitely seen and smelt Cheetos before. Those orange puffy snacks that leave your fingers smelling tangy and cheesy.
But for Muslim consumers, questions have been asked about whether animal enzymes are used in the production process of Cheetos products. In this article we'll examine whether the Cheetos brand uses haram ingredients or whether they're suitable for Muslims to eat under Islamic law.
Firstly, what is Cheetos? 🥨
Cheetos is a popular subsidiary brand of PepsiCo. Invented in 1948 by Fritos creator Charles Elmer Doolin in Texas, this cheese-flavoured snack with extra cheese seasoning became a hot favourite in the United States.
In 1965 Frito-Lay merged with PepsiCo and Cheetos started to push sales outside of the United States into the United Kingdom and Muslim countries alike.
How many Cheetos variants are there? 🔢
There is a diverse array of Cheetos products, including Hot Cheetos, Flamin Hot Cheetos and Jalapeno Cheetos. For Muslim consumers there is a concern that Hot Cheetos contain haram ingredients, such as beef residue, which we'll explore later.
For those wanting crisps or chips that have a different, non-cheesy taste, alternatives such as Lay's Classic, Rold Gold Pretzels, Original SunChips, Ruffles Original, and salted-only snacks offer lawful choices. These alternatives represent a great halal option for taste buds craving other flavors.
The ingredients inside Cheetos 🔬
Cheetos usually contain the following ingredients: seed oils (including vegetable oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil and canola oil), wheat flour, salt, dextrose, monosodium glutamate, maltodextric, citric acid, yeast extract, dried tomato, sugar, garlic powder, lactose, onion powder and artificial colourants (including Red 40 Lake, Yellow 6 Lake, Yellow 6 and Yellow 5).
The cheese flavour comes from special cheese seasoning and spices. These include cheddar cheese, whey protein concentrate, garlic powder, buttermilk powder, salt, paprika and other natural flavours.
Are animal products used in Cheetos? 🐄
Let's break down each category of product used in the production of Cheetos and assess the halal nature of each:
Cheetos uses animal enzymes and whey protein concentrate in some Cheetos flavors, and these can be derived from non-halal sources, if animals are not slaughtered according to Islamic law. Animal rennet and other animal products, if not processed correctly, can render the product haram.
Oils and Acids
Vegetable oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, and canola oil are also found in Cheetos, but cross-contamination or a particular production process can change its halal status. Citric acid is often used in the production process as a flavor enhancer, and it can also be derived from non-halal sources, even though it is mainly produced from citrus fruits.
Artificial colours and flavours present additional complexity. Monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavor enhancer for Cheetos, could be derived from pork or non-zabiha beef. Certain artificial colours might be extracted from insects, which is considered haram. Even additives like folic acid must be carefully examined for their halal status.
Dairy and Cheese Components
Cheddar cheese and cheese seasoning in Cheetos might include animal rennet and other haram ingredients like pork. Transparency in the ingredients list is crucial, as it can help in determining whether these components comply with Islamic teachings.
Does Cheetos have halal certification? ✅
Halal certification in Muslim-majority regions ensures compliance with Islamic dietary laws. For instance, in Saudi Arabia, authorities pay meticulous attention to the manufacturing process to guarantee that the products adhere to Islamic teachings. This fosters trust among Muslim consumers.
All types of Cheetos that are sold in Muslim-majority countries, like Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, have gone through the process of receiving halal certification from relevant, reputable organisations that are certified by the local government. Therefore in these countries, Cheetos is verified as halal.
What do Islamic scholars say about Cheetos being halal? 👳🏽♂️
Some scholars argue that it's fundamental to know the source of the rennet used in the production process of Cheetos. In this case you need to know if the rennet comes from an animal that was slaughtered in accordance with Islamic law for Muslim consumers.
Other scholars argue that even if the rennet comes from a non-halal animal then the cheese produced from this rennet is still permissible to eat.
"Whether you know the source of the rennet and that it comes from an animal that was slaughtered properly or otherwise, or you do not know, there is nothing wrong with eating cheese that has been made with it." - IslamQA
However all Islamic scholars agree that if the rennet is sourced from a pig or porcine-materials then Cheetos are haram and can't be eaten as halal snacks.
So, is Cheetos halal?
According to customer interactions with the Cheetos brand, there is still varying opinion as to whether Cheetos is halal.
One customer wrote in an online review that he checked with the company about Flamin' Hot Cheetos. According to the company, Flamin' Hot Cheetos contains animal rennet not derived from pork, but Flamin' Hot Cheetos Baked variety may contain enzymes derived from pork.
It also depends on the school of thought or madhab you follow.
According to Imam Abu Hanifah (and one of two opinions narrated from Imam Ahmad) rennet from dead animals or animals that were not slaughtered according to Shari’ah is still tahir (pure).
Ultimately in Muslim countries you can be certain that Cheetos is halal given the halal certification process that they must go through in order to be sold in those markets, however, outside of Muslim countries (for example in the United Kingdom or United States) the answer to whether Cheetos is halal food comes down to the source of rennet or animal enzyme used in the production.
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