London Daily Mail, February 22, 2008
Furious Muslims have heavily criticised Walkers crisps after it emerged that certain varieties of the manufacturer’s products contain trace elements of alcohol.
Some crisp types use minute amounts of alcohol as a chemical agent to extract certain flavours.
The report in Asian newspaper Eastern Eye, highlights concerns raised by shopkeeper Besharat Rehman, who owns a halal supermarket in Bradford, West Yorkshire.
Mr Rehman told the paper: “A customer informed us that Sensations Thai Sweet Chilli and Doritos Chilli Heat Wave are not on Walkers’ alcohol-free list. Our suppliers were unaware of this.
“Even if it is a trace amount of alcohol, Walkers should make it clear on the packaging so that the customer can make an informed choice.
“I feel frustrated and angry. I have let my customers down simply because such a big company like Walkers is not sensitive to Muslim needs.
“Many of them were my daughter’s favourite crisps. As soon as I found out about the alcohol in them, I called home to ask my wife to throw out all the packets.”
Shuja Shafi, who chairs the food standards committee of the Muslim Council of Britain, said that he intended to investigate. “Certainly we would find it very offensive to have eaten food with alcohol.”
Masood Khawaja, of the Halal Food Authority, said that this was not the first time the issue had been raised with Walkers.
“They should have looked into the matter and solved it instead of hiding behind labelling regulations. It does not matter what percentage of alcohol is involved.
“Besides Muslims, there are a lot of teetotal people who would not like to consume alcohol in any form. As far as possible we try and lobby for halal symbols on popular products like Kellogg’s cereals.
“But we have always told Muslims to check the contents list even if a product is marked suitable for vegetarians. But to not mention it on the packaging is unfair.”
However, a spokesperson for Walkers said that trace amounts of alcohol in crisps or bread are believed to be permissible for Muslims.
“We do not add alcohol to our products. However, ethyl alcohol may be present in trace amounts in a very small number of our flavours.
“It is used as a carrying agent for flavourings, and is found in many common food and drink products.
“Foods like bread can also contain the same or higher trace amounts due to fermentation. “We are aware of the concerns from some Muslim consumers about the appropriateness of specific ingredients. We take the concerns of our consumers extremely seriously.
“In previous assessments by Muslim scholars, foods and drinks that contain trace amounts of ethyl alcohol have been confirmed as permissible for Muslim consumption because of both the fact that the ingredient does not bear its original qualities and does not change the taste, colour or smell of the product, and its very low level.”