What is the permissible rate of alcohol?
This question is from Wageningen Uni,
31-October-2008 - 16:05:18
We cannot label every drink or food that contains alcohol as haram (forbidden).
For instance, ethyl alcohol is naturally present in fruit and vegetables. During the fermentation that takes place when fruit and vegetables ripen, ethyl alcohol is produced in certain amounts as by-products. Naturally formed ethyl alcohol is present in most of the natural aromas that are used in food and drink industry. In the whole world, it is regarded as natural in food regulations that ethyl alcohol exists in certain amounts.
The amount of ethyl alcohol present in food and drinks must not exceed a certain rate. That rule is present in the fruit juice regulation. It is because in the foods that contain carbohydrates, alcohol is formed naturally after a while. It happens as a natural character of the food. The fact that there is an item in the Food Regulation limiting the alcohol as 5 grams is explained by “the possibility that the amounts under that value can form spontaneously”.
It is known that in most of the natural aromas used in the production of food and drinks, natural alcohol that arises from fruit and vegetables is present. That is the reason why fizzy drinks that are final products contain alcohol at the rate of 5 in ten thousand. If the analyses that were made for fizzy drinks were made for bread, ayran (diluted yoghurt), yoghurt, fruit, vegetables, boza (slightly fermented millet drink), kefir and many other items of food, it would be seen clearly that same results would be obtained. Therefore, it is not right to say that every drink that contains alcohol is haram.
However, there is something that is not known about the issue. It is what is added as solvents into drinks.
In all of the fizzy drinks, sweetening or aromatizing agents are used. Those agents are essentially fats and do not dissolve in water. In order to make them soluble in water, intermediary solvents that dissolve fully in water and fat are needed. The most abundant, cheapest and widely used intermediary solvent is ethyl alcohol. Therefore, ethyl alcohol is present in the composition of fizzy drinks. In terms of chemistry, it can be clarified as follows: In chemistry, the following rule exists: ‘similar things dissolve in each other’. Since the most important and widely used solvent is water, all of the other solvents are divided into two as hydrophilic (water-loving, dissolving in water fully) and hydrophobic (water-fearing, not dissolving in water fully). The agents that contain hydrophils in their molecules can yield a clear solution by hydrophilic association with water.
Are there not any intermediary solvents that do not cause drunkardness or that are not harmful to health other than ethyl alcohol? Yes, there are. However, they are more expensive than ethyl alcohol and the producers might not use anything other than ethyl alcohol if they do not have any special aims or concerns.
Does ethyl alcohol, which is used to make fatlike sweetening and aromatizing agents dissolve in water, not undergo any chemical changes in the fizzy drink?
Ethyl alcohol enables fatlike agents dissolve in water by hydrophilic or hydrophobic association. It is called “solvation” in chemistry, and it is a physical event. In a physical event, the nature of the agents does not generally change. Even if there is a change, it is extraordinarily small.
In accordance with the explanations above:
1- The alcohol not exceeding a certain rate in the food and drinks that forms as a result of fermentation is not haram; e.g. kefir.
2- It is halal (permissible) to eat and drink the food and drinks that contain alcohol naturally; e.g. fruit.
3- It is not religiously permissible to eat and drink things into which alcohol is added as solvent unless they are used as medicine or treatment. If alcohol is used as a solvent, it is not permissible to drink that drink since alcohol does not undergo any change. If a permissible solvent is used as a solvent instead of alcohol, it becomes permissible.
The fundamental rule for food and drinks is that something is regarded as halal (permissible) until it becomes certain that it is haram (forbidden). Therefore, something becomes haram when it becomes certain that it is haram. However, it is always better to avoid doubtful things.
It is necessary to investigate the composition of a drink and to determine whether alcohol has been added as a solvent or not. Some fizzy drink producers use ethyl alcohol as a solvent to enable the agent dissolve in water because other solvents are not available or very expensive. The decree about the issue changes from fizzy drink to fizzy drink and to the religiousness of the person producing the fizzy drink. It is necessary to know the above-mentioned issues in order to make a decision.
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