The Easter bank holiday weekend will see many people munching on the chocolate eggs that have become an annual tradition. So much so that more than 80 million boxed Easter eggs are now sold in the UK each year, while 500 million Cadbury creme eggs are produced annually and on sale in shops all year round.
In recent years, questions have been raised over whether Easter eggs are halal – which is widely used to mean suitable for Muslims to eat. There have been fierce objections to Cadbury’s move to acknowledge Islamic dietary needs in an item based on Christian tradition.
It stems partly from a religious row that erupted in 2017 when the Church of England became angry over the word Easter being removed from the title of egg-hunt events at National Trust properties, which were rebranded as Cadbury’s Great British Egg Hunt. The accusation was that Easter’s Christian origins and significance were being cast aside.
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What does halal mean?
Halal is an Arabic word meaning “permissible” – it describes anything that followers of Islam are allowed to do. Although it is most often used to describe food and drink, halal can refer to any object or activity. Anything that isn’t allowed is referred to as haram.
For instance, Muslims are allowed to eat poultry, cattle, sheep and goats, as long as the animals have been slaughtered in a specified way. It is not permitted to eat pork.
What does Cadbury say?
In 2013, Cadbury UK answered questions on social media about whether its chocolate was halal, saying: “None of our UK products have any paid certification but all are halal by default… Because they contain no meat! In some markets, it is printed as an assurance that no animal byproducts are included in our bars, not in the UK.”
Some years ago, Cadbury tweeted a picture of an employee proudly displaying halal certificates alongside Dairy Milk bars, apparently in response to claims that the chocolate contained animal byproducts. Malaysian Ministry of Health tests had appeared to find traces of pig DNA in Dairy Milk Hazelnut and Dairy Milk Roast Almond bars., prompting a separate investigation by the Saudi Food and Drug Authority. However, subsequent testing in Malaysia did not find any evidence of pork.
Cadbury responded by explaining: “None of our UK products are halal certified and we have never made any changes to our chocolate to specifically make them halal. They are just suitable for those following a halal diet in the same way as standard food such as bread or water.”
In a separate statement a spokesperson for Mondelez, which owns Cadbury, said: “In the UK our chocolate products are suitable for vegetarians and those following a halal diet, however they are not halal certified. As our chocolate products do not contain meat, the ritual of halal does not apply and in the UK carry no halal certifications of any kind. The only animal-related products we use in our British chocolate are milk and eggs. We take care to point out if and when our products are suitable for certain sections of society who take an interest in the ingredients and manufacturing process.
“Elsewhere in the world, we may label products with any number of certifications based on consumer interest and dietary requirements, and the best place for consumers to find that information is on the product label in that country. However, Cadbury welcomes consumers of all faiths and none.”
The Twitter post showing halal certificates sparked outrage with many saying they would boycott Cadbury’s over its move to recognise Islamic dietary requirements. The company was founded in Birmingham by John Cadbury, a Christian and member of the Quaker Movement, back in 1824.
In 2017, amid the National Trust Easter row, the then Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu told the Telegraph: “If people visited Birmingham today in the Cadbury World they will discover how Cadbury’s Christian faith influenced his industrial output. He built houses for all his workers, he built a church, he made provision for schools. It is obvious that for him Jesus and justice were two sides of the one coin.”
So are Easter eggs halal or halal-certified?
Yes, chocolate eggs (whether for Easter or any other time) are halal, simply because they contain nothing that is forbidden under Islamic law. The same could be said of water, bread or milk.
But, as Cadbury stated above, in overseas Islamic nations, the company gets an official certificate of products being halal to reassure Muslim consumers who buy chocolate that there’s no pork fat or other forbidden animal products used in the manufacturing process.
Cadbury has previously stated on its Facebook page: “In the UK our chocolate products are suitable for vegetarians and those following a Muslim diet, however, they are not halal-certified. The only animal-related products we use in the UK are milk and eggs. We take care to point out if and when our products are suitable for particular requirements or not.”
In fact, all chocolate is halal, because there are no forbidden animal fats in it.
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