Is it halal to consume Fermented Fruits and Vegetables?

Fruits and vegetables are two commodities that are crucial for health. This is because both contain many vitamins and minerals that are beneficial to the body. As a result, these two commodities are processed into various kinds of products. Starting from processed food, medicine, to cosmetics.

One method of processing fruit and vegetables that is quite often done, even for a household scale, is fermentation. Fermented fruit and vegetable products are believed to increase the benefits previously contained in them.

Dr. Ir. Budiatman Satiawihardja, M.Sc., LPPOM MUI Expert Team as well as a lecturer at the Department of Food Technology, Faculty of Agricultural Technology, Bogor Agricultural University, explained that the fermentation process is a life process of living cells that grow or reproduce.

During the process, there is a change or conversion of substances in the medium into metabolite products (internal or external) as well as cell multiplication or growth.

“Even though the metabolites produced are not the main product (namely by-products), they may be substances that can cause hangovers (khamr) so they can be categorized as critical,” explained Budiatman.

The substance in question is alcohol or ethanol (C2H5OH). Naturally, ethanol is found in ripe fruit, such as durian, pineapple, oranges, and others. Meanwhile, commercially, ethanol is obtained from synthetic and fermentation.

Synthetic ethanol is made from petrochemicals through the hydration process of ethylene, while fermented ethanol is made from vegetable ingredients containing starch or sugar with the help of yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae).

“The fermentation of vegetable materials not only produces ethanol, but also other alcohol compounds, so it is necessary to do the separation process of ethanol by distillation,” explained Heryani, S.Si., as the Technical Manager of the LPPOM MUI Laboratory.

(Also read: Understanding the MUI Fatwa on Ethanol Content in Food and Beverage Products)

Then, what kind of ethanol can be used for products to be certified halal by the MUI?

Fundamentally, any food that contains carbohydrates has the potential to also contain ethanol. However, ethanol contained in food naturally is not included in the prohibited category of khamr.

To be noted, fermentation makes alcohol levels in fruits and vegetables increase and it could be dangerous for those who consume. If it happens, the fruits and vegetables will become haram.

This is in accordance with the Hadith of the Prophet. which later became the rule of fiqhiyyah: “Laa dhoror wa laa dhiroor”. Meaning: “There must be no danger and no harm to others.” (HR. Al-Baihaqi, Al-Hâkim, etc.).

MUI Fatwa No. 10 of 2018 concerning Food and Beverage Products Containing Alcohol / Ethanol states that only ethanol derived from khamr cannot be used for halal products because it is haram and unclean.

If it does not come from the industry of khamr, other types of ethanol may be used with the limits agreed in the fatwa. For example, synthetic ethanol or non-fermentation products khamr.

There are also at least some new things that are contained in the fatwa. First, the ethanol content of the final food product is not limited as long as it is not medically harmful. Second, the ethanol content in the final beverage product is tolerated less than 0.5% as long as it is not medically harmful. Third, ethanol content for intermediate products such as flavors and seasonings are not limited, as long as its use in the final product is in accordance with the first and second provisions.

Of course, this non-hazardous requirement for retail products has been evaluated by BPOM by granting product distribution permits. This latest regulation also changes the previous direction of MUI fatwa that does not tolerate ethanol content in instant foods and beverages. (YN)

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