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Trace Amounts of Alcohol in Food

Posted on Oct 5, 2015 by in Featured, Fiqh, Question and Answer | 29 comments


Question: There are some products, such as Arnotts Tim Tams that, that contain trace elements of alcohol in them. Is it permissible to consume them?

Answer: There are many food items that contain small amounts of alcohol, including Tim Tams which was confirmed via email (To add to the confusion, reliable sources have informed me that they called and Arnotts has denied alcohol being used in the process, if there is doubt in this case he can consider it halal). This is important to Muslims because the consumption of alcohol in Islam is prohibited and alcohol is considered to be inherently najis (ritually unclean). Usually the amount of alcohol in these items is very small and it is assumed that the alcohol burns off because it evaporates at 172 F. But, the Unites States Department of Agriculture has concluded that traces of alcohol does in fact remain after the cooking process. No-bake desserts, such as deserts which contain creme de menthe or creme de cacao, will naturally retain their alcohol content because they are not heated up. Baked goods that had alcohol based vanilla extract in them will retain some of the alcohol. After research, it was determined that deserts with vanilla extract in them will retain 40 percent of the alcohol when cooked for 15 minutes, and 25 percent when coated for 60 minutes.

The jurisprudential question is whether such items are prohibited to consume. Sayyid Sistani clearly states in A Code of Practice for Muslims in the West : “All kinds of alcohol (whether extracted from wood or other sources) is pure, not najis. So, the medicines, the perfumes, and the food containing alcohol are pure and can be used. It is also permissible to eat such food if the amount of alcohol is very minute, e.g., 2%.” This refers to all types of alcohol except wine derived from grapes, which is considered najis to Sayyid Sistani. But, regarding this wine, if two-thirds evaporates and it becomes vinegar it would become tahir.

Sayyid Khamenei considers all alcohol that is eatable and originally liquid to be najis, according to obligatory precaution. Regarding this issue there are is a fatwa that should be considered. This is found in the newly asked questions segment of his Farsi site. He is asked: I live in the west and mistakenly purchased a cake that contains alcohol in it. Since I have purchased it, is it permissible for me to give to my Christian family members to eat instead of throwing it away?

Answer: “Giving food that has alcohol in it to others, even if they are non-Muslims, is impermissible.” This is about cake which contains alcohol. Here it is clear that the cake would not be intoxicating, there would only be trace elements of alcohol from vanilla extract, for instance. Regarding wine which evaporates, Sayyid Khamenei does hold that if two-thirds evaporates and turns to vinegar it becomes tahir and consuming it would be permissible.

Hence, according to Sayyid Sistani, if there are only trace elements of alcohol in the food it is permissible to eat. But, if the alcohol was wine derived from grapes than two-thirds has to evaporate and turn to vinegar. According to Sayyid Khamenei, if there are trace elements of alcohol in the food it is impermissible to eat.

By: Shaykh Hamid Waqar


  1. so vanila extract is haram acording to my marja rehber khamenie?vanila icecream is also haram?

    • If vanilla extract has alcohol in it than yes. The ice cream, depends if it was made with vanilla extract that has alcohol in it. The vanilla bean is a plant which is not haram, depends on how you get that plant into the food.

      • But the Prophet Mohamed ate bread and Vinegar, which both are fermented, and have traces of alcohol in them.

        • Vinegar is the result of a purifying process. The fermentation process with bread is interesting and I’ll look into it more, maybe this is why Sayyid Sistani allows the 2%.

          • Salaam

            Are you sure it is 2% and not 0.2% because in Europe ,2% means .2 % (re-read the quote). 2% seems like an awfully large amount of alcohol which is not too disimilar to many alcoholic beverages.

          • Salaam

            Actually, you are correct. I checke the arabic:

            جواب : إذا كان احتمال كونها مأخوذة من المذكى موهوماً لا يعتني به العقلاء كاحتمال 2% فهي محكومة بالنجاسة، ولا يجوز لبسها في الصلاة. وأما في غير هذه الصورة فيبنى على طهارتها وتجوز الصلاة فيها.

          • Yes, I just doubled checked it as well. The Arabic in al-Fiqh al-Mughtarabin states the same.

  2. how shoud we know it has alcohol in it?because it doesnt mention alcohol in it..

    • This would only apply to the cases where you know. If you do not know or are unsure than it is permissible to eat.

  3. what about perfumes or body sprays and lotions which contains ethyl alcohol or any type of alcohol?

    • I will answer this in another post insha’Allah.

  4. So according to sayed sistani, vanilla extract is halal?

    • If it does not reach the limit that he states.

  5. asalam alaikum

    i have a product that says 0.01 % vanilla essence would the mentioning of this small percent imply that it was from an alcoholic source because if it wasn’t then they wouldnt mention this percent ?

    • Personally, I wouldn’t derive that implication. But, regardless, Ayatollah Sistani would not have a problem with that even if it was alcohol because of the limit that he mentions in “A Code of Practice for Muslims in the West.”

  6. Salaams,
    so according to ayatollah sistani, is ethyl alcohol allowed then? it’s commonly found in drinks and baked goods

    • Salaams, “All kinds of alcohol (whether extracted from wood or other sources) is pure, not najis. So, the medicines, the perfumes, and the food containing alcohol are pure and can be used. It is also permissible to eat such food if the amount of alcohol is very minute, e.g., 2%.”

      • What if the amount of alcohol is unknown, but you know it is not intoxicating as the case is with soy sauce?

        Also does 3% count as a “very minute” amount or is the limit up to 2%?

        • The limit is 2% and intoxication is not the criteria as 3% would not make one intoxicated. If the amount is unknown and there is a possibility for it being greater than 2% I would strongly urge precaution.

  7. I work in a lab and everyday we have to work with 100% ethanol and 100% methanol. If either of these alchohols is accidentally sprayed on my clothes, I change my clothes for namaz as they both these 100% alchohols are najis. Is my assumption correct?

    Thank you

    • According to Sayyid Sistani they would not be najis.

  8. In UK you can purchase Dr Oetkar vanilla extract which does not contain any alcohol

  9. Salaam alaikum, Shaikh Hamid. I hope you are well, inshallah. I read all of the comments and still remain confused about the permissible trace amount. Is it 2% or 0.2%?

    • Salaams, its 2%.

  10. “It is also permissible to eat such food if the amount of alcohol is very minute, e.g., 2%.””

    1 L of something with 2% Alcohol will make everyone quite duzzy. No need to look for traces of ALC anymore.

    • This is about cooked food, not drinks.

  11. Salaam alaikum. Does one need to take any necessary precautions when performing namaz after an ultrasound or pap smear. Both these procedures involve the use of gels for examination.

  12. Salaam,

    Sometimes we receive food gifts that we are not permitted to eat e.g. chocolates and cakes that contain alcohol. Is it permissible to give such food to our non-muslim friends instead of throwing them away?

    • No, we are not allowed to gift them away.

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