Cheese – isn’t all cheese halaal?

cheese board hungry for halaal

You may already know that I have a serious love affair with all things cheese. Grilled cheese toasties, cheese and preserves, cream cheese in my cooking and in my dessert! Quite simply I love cheese. It brings on my migraines and so I’ve reluctantly had to reduce the amount of it in my diet but in truth, I’d sooner pop a Panado than give up cheese completely.

cheese board hungry for halaal

So years ago when the halaal sign started popping up on cheese in the supermarkets I was quite confused. Here I thought cheese is made from milk. Why do we need a halaal sign on cheese? Well it turns out the manufacturing process uses enzymes and the source of these enzymes are what’s in question. The Ifanca website which is the American Halaal Certifying body was able to answer the question. The below is taken from their FAQ’s section.

The production of cheese requires the use of enzymes to coagulate or curdle the milk and the addition of other ingredients for various functions. The enzymes can be derived from animal, vegetable, or microbial sources. The animal sources include pigs and cattle. The enzyme derived from pigs is called pepsin and is haram. Another enzyme derived from pigs or small cattle is lipase. (Lipase can also be made by microorganisms, which is halal.) One of the enzymes derived from the inner lining of the fourth stomach of calves is called rennet. It may come from Zabiha calves or non-Zabiha calves. The enzyme can also be produced by microbial methods. Microbial enzymes are not derived from meat and are halal.
Rennet is a crude preparation containing dried, ground linings of the calf stomach. The active enzyme is called chymosin. Today, purified chymosin is also manufactured through genetic modifications of microorganisms when the chymosin gene from a calf is duplicated and inserted into microbial cells. Calf rennet is still used by specialty cheese manufacturers. Moreover, pig enzymes, such as lipase, are still used in high flavor, ripened cheeses, like romano.
In South Africa we are lucky to have most cheese on supermarket shelves labeled halaal or not. What we have to look out for are the speciality cheeses from certain farms and cheese products that may contain other ingredients which must also be considered.
Meanwhile, as long as it’s safe, I say cheers to cheese!
cheese board hungry for halaal


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  • I’m interested to hear that cheese is a trigger for your migraines. I’ve suffered from sever migraines since I was a child, and now they are occurring more than ever! I have heard cheese is a trigger food (especially mature cheese) but don’t want to believe it. Have you been to the doctor?

    • Hi Emma
      It was my doctor who years ago advised me that Caffeine, Cheese and Chocolate could be migraine triggers. I reduced my intake of all 3 and my migraines also became a whole lot less. And so far, as long as I am moderate with all 3, I am good to go. And I believe cigarette smoking is also part of that list. Just another reason to kick that habit.