NEARLY 150 years after sepoys mutinied against cartridges being greased with beef and pork tallow, the fat’s in the fire again.
This time it’s the mullahs who’re up in arms to protest alleged use of porcine products in jams, ketchups, chocolates and other foodstuffs manufactured by Indian editions of MNCs.
At Friday sermons across the City, and even as far afield as Dhar, Muslims are being cautioned against consuming Kissan jam, Maggi noodles and Cadbury’s chocolates by clerics who claim that these, and other edible goods bearing labels E-101 through to E-904, are laced with pig fat or gelatin.
The clergymen allege MNCs devised the “E-code” in a bid to camouflage the presence of haraam (forbidden) substances after listing of ingredients in canned/packaged goods was made mandatory under law.
“Instead of writing it down in simple language, the MNCs use numbers ranging from E-101 to E-904 to denote the presence of haraam ingredients in foodstuffs. If the numbers are inscribed on a packet, wrapper or tin, it means the item contains porcine produce and its consumption should be avoided at all costs,” warned the imam at Chhoti Khajrani mosque opposite the Press Complex during a recent sermon.
Failure to do so would be on pain of violating the Koranic injunction against pork consumption, he added. Reports of similar warnings being issued from the Friday pulpit have also trickled in from other City mosques as well as Khandwa and Dhar districts.
The ecclesiastical allegations are based on an article published in Young Muslim Digest by one Dr Mohammed Amjad Khan who, in turn, attributes his findings to a report by the French government’s Food department. But more on that later.
Interestingly, although they do not see eye to eye on most matters, Barelvi and Deobandi clerics appear to be in accord on this issue as the E-code warnings have been sounded at mosques populated by adherents of both ideologies.
Although both Hindustan Lever Limited, the owner of the Kissan brand, and Nestle, which manufactures Maggi noodles, vehemently denied the charges (see box) in e-mailed replies, at least a few believers are heeding the warning.
“As I live alone I frequently relied on Maggi noodles as a dinner substitute. However, I have stopped eating it after being told that it could contain parts of badjanawar (unclean animal),” revealed Syed Rehan Ali, a maths teacher at Auckland Academy School.
Coming back to the article that spawned the dietary warnings, Dr Khan, quoting sources in the Control Laboratories under the Department of Food Quality, Paigel, France, claims widespread use of pig fat by multinationals in bakery and confectionery items, toothpastes, shaving creams and even vitamin tablets.
Khan traces the origin of the E-code to the period following the oil boom when the West fist started doing business with Arab and Muslim countries in a big way.
“The companies initially tried to disguise the presence of porcine products by claiming they were using sheep or bovine fat. However, Muslim nations objected even to this as the animals weren’t slaughtered in the halaal manner. So, the Western countries and multinationals decided to use E-Code and since then it is being used on all packaged and tinned food products,” claimed Dr Khan.
What companies say
Paresh Chaudhry, Head-Corporate Communications, Hindustan Lever Limited, Communication Leader-South Asia: All HLL food products with a green dot are 100% vegetarian in nature.
The numbers in question range from E-100 to E-1521 and refer to antioxidants, colours, flavours, preservatives, sweeteners etc as per the Codex Alimentarius Commission created in 1963 by FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation) and WHO (World Health Organisation) for universal standards and guidelines for packaged foods.
Himanshu Manglik, Manager, Communications, Nestle (India) Ltd: We clarify that Nestlé India does not use pig fat or gelatin in manufacturing its products. The international numbers/codes for additives used on the packaging are in compliance with the Indian Food Law.