MUI: Cochineal Fatwa Decision Taken from the Opinions of Many Experts

The mass media is busy discussing the natural carmine dye from the Cochineal insect. Generally, this dye can be used for various foods, drinks, and cosmetics. The Indonesian Council of Ulama (MUI) has declared halal based on MUI Fatwa No. 33 of 2011 concerning the Law on Food and Drink Coloring from Cochineal Insects.


This fatwa clearly states that food and drink colorings derived from Cochineal are halal as long as they are beneficial and not harmful. In Biology, this animal is classified as an insect because it belongs to the insect class with the genus Dactylopius, order Hemiptera and species Dactylopius coccus. These insects live on cactus plants and obtain nutrients from plants, not from dirty materials. This animal is similar to grasshoppers: its life cycle does not go through larval and pupal stages, and its blood does not flow.


Recently, the East Java NU Bahtsul Masail Institute (LBM) discussed the law regarding dyes made from carmine, which were declared unclean and disgusting. Based on this opinion, Prof. KH. Asrorun Niam Sholeh, Chair of the MUI for Fatwa, opened his voice. Kyai Niam appreciated the discussion and the results of the decision of LBM NU East Java Province regarding the law on using carmine for food coloring purposes. According to him, this is part of the istijhad process, which needs to be respected.


“In essence, the MUI and LBM NU have the same perspective and views in determining religious fatwas, especially issues of worship and food, namely by using an ihtiyath or prudence approach, and as far as possible avoiding differences in jurisprudence. It’s just that the legal provisions are different due to differences in the tasawwur of the problem. MUI uses a tahqiqul manath approach by examining the details of the types of animals used as dyes, considering that the types of insects are very diverse. Meanwhile, if you read the results, LBM NU mentions insect law in general,” explained Kiai Niam.


As far as possible, the approach of al-ihtiyath (caution) and al-khuruj min al-khilaf comes from different views of the fuqaha. This can be seen from MUI fatwas, especially those currently being discussed relating to laws or insects in general.


“Specifically regarding the use of Cochineal for food coloring, the MUI has conducted intensive discussions, holding several meetings and discussions. More than six (6) discussion forums were held. In it, we hear various opinions from experts in their fields to be used as consideration for determining the law [fatwa],” said Kiai Niam.


One of the experts who was a resource person then was an entomologist, Dr. Dra. Dewi Sartiami, M.Si, who explained the Cochineal anatomy life cycle, including lifestyle patterns, dangers, and benefits. Apart from that, various experts also stated that in terms of safety, carmine has been accepted for use by various world food safety authorities. Historically, the Aztecs in South America used carmine for thousands of years, and it has been proven safe and not harmful (‘Adam al-dlarar).


“From various expert explanations, it was concluded that the characteristics of Cochineal are similar to grasshoppers. “Meanwhile, grasshoppers in the context of Islamic jurisprudence, even though they are included in the requirements, have their specificities,” emphasized Kiai Niam, the Head of Syuriyah PBNU.


Hadith, narrated by Ahmad, states, “From Abdullah ibn Umar ra., he said: Rasulullah said: two carcasses and two blood are permissible for Muslims; while the two carcasses are fish and grasshoppers, while the two blood are liver and spleen.”



“On that basis, the MUI issued a fatwa that the use of cochineal for food coloring purposes is halal as long as it is beneficial and not harmful,” concluded Kiai Niam, closing the discussion. (*)

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