Recent advances in halal food authentication: Challenges and strategies

Consumption of halal food has recently increased among consumers, specifically Muslims, with the halal food market expanding more across every continent from Asia to the Middle East, Africa, the Americas, and Europe. Currently, the halal industry is officially listed as a worldwide market estimated to be worth $580 million a year, with a projected development rate of 7% annually. Halal covers all areas of food production from raw materials to food processing, to food handling service, and must comply with the supply chain standard of halal food and country mandated requirements and/or certifications. As the food chain supply grows consumers must be cautious of their food content, specifically Muslims who can only use halal products that meet specific requirements. Consumers must know what is in the food they wish to eat; however some manufacturers mislead consumers about the source or quality of their food products for their financial gains. Since halal is not easy to verify by texture, odor, or taste, most Muslim consumers depend on certification and labeling to determine if food items are made using the appropriate halal practices.

There are several different types of foods that need halal authentication for specific reasons:

  • Meats- to distinguish pork from other meats, like beef, buffalo, quail, goat, chicken, and rabbit
  • Sausages and meatballs- most often substituted with pork meats for an economic reason
  • Gelatin- based products (examples include candy, marshmallows, pharmaceutical capsules)- the gelatin may come from pigskin, cattle bones, or cattle hides
  • Confectionery products (examples include candy, marshmallows, gummy, pastilles)- gelatin is one of the ingredients that may be porcine gelatin
  • Beverages (examples include soft drinks and fruit juices)- ethanol is added in small quantities (allowed to be added at no more than 0.5% (v/v)) to help the drinks taste better
  • Seasonings (e.g., soy sauce/vinegar)- various alcohols are produced during the fermentation process
  • GM food (soybean)- Muslim consumers have concerns about the ethicality and halal status of GMO foods

There are several conventional methods and advanced techniques used to verify halal foods. Although conventional methods are simple to use and inexpensive, prepping samples are often time consuming and the results are hard to interpret due to lack of substantial datasets. Over time, advanced methods have been discovered that provide validated and trusted results that confirm and verify the outcomes of testing.  These methods and advanced techniques include:

• Physicochemical method (dielectric)- used to distinguish halal from non-halal meat as well as alcohol from beverages by measuring the interaction of components in food using electromagnetic energy. This method can distinguish different meats, specifically pork, chicken, and beef, in the frequency range of 0.5 to 50 GHz

• Electrophoresis- using polysaccharide gels to distinguish meat from various animal species.

• PCR- used to analyze meat-based products such as sausages and meatballs, gelatin capsules in pharmaceutical products, and confectionery products.

• E-nose- identifies the adulterants in meat products, edible oils, seasonings, and beverages

• GC (gas chromatography)- a separation method used to analyze volatile and semi-volatile substances, including aromatic compounds

• Biosensors- detect pig and meat product counterfeiting in halal and kosher meat and alcohol in food products.

• HPLC (high- performance liquid chromatography)- popular analysis technique for identifying and quantifying amino acids when combined with a fluorescent or ultraviolet detector. The makeup of amino acids in gelatin has been identified using analytical techniques to determine the origin of various gelatin sources found in meat products

• Molecular spectroscopy- monitoring the interaction of electromagnetic radiation with analytes at the molecular level. Non-halal compounds in food or pharmaceutical products such as proteins, lipids, and fatty acids can be easily detected at the molecular level, rendering molecular spectroscopy prominent in halal authentication

• Chemometric methods/AI/IoT- Chemometric methods use multivariate statistics to extract data from the complex analytical data. Assessment of halal food authentication is principally based on regression and pattern recognition methods. AI (artificial intelligence) can be useful in determining food quality, classify foods, and make predictions. Also, it has been integrated with devices such as E-noses and near-infrared ray spectroscopy (NIRS) to enhance the accuracy and precision of halal food analysis. IoT (Internet of Things) can be utilized to track and manage product information in the halal food industry and refers to smart gadgets that connect to each other through the Internet and saves data in the cloud. Radio frequency identification (RFID) can be used to track and trace the integrity of halal food throughout the supply chain.

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Posted on 26 January 2022