Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Halal, Kosher and Vegan but will eat Seafood?

In one of my previous lives I worked as an Event Planner and special dietary requests have always been a source of intrigue. You get the standard Vegetarian, Gluten Free, Halal, Kosher but occasionally mind boggling statements such as, "Vegan but will eat Seafood." Lately there been a growing media focus on the increasing usage of Halal food and its alleged impact on Australian Culture. So I thought it would be timely to write about special dietary requests. Please note I'm not a Nutritionist and my views are crafted from secondary research, I'm just an average Jo who blogs (I've always wanted to use that).

  • Dairy Free: Is the practise of avoiding of diary products due to the inability to digest lactose (milk sugar) in the small intestine. Being diary free used to mean no milk, butter, cheese and the elimination of number of delicious baked goods, but now there are a number of delicious products to assist, so all it requires is some discipline. Which I have close to zero, so I'm constantly in awe of my cousin Yens who is gluten and dairy free but continues to bake for family and friends - how can you not lick the spoon?

  • Gluten Free: Is a diet that completely avoids gluten, a protein found in wheat (including kamut and spelt), barley, rye and malts. Suffers of Celiac Disease are often prescribed a Gluten Free diet to manage their symptoms but it can be difficult to adhere to due to cross contamination and gluten being used as a food additive to flavour, stabilise or thicken food. As a food additive it is often listed under the terms - maltodextrine, dextrine or dextrose. Suitable grains and starches for individuals on a Gluten Free diet include corn, potatoes, rice, and tapioca, amaranth, arrowroot, millet, montina, lupin, quinoa, sorghum, taro, teff, chia seed, and yam. Various types of bean, soybean, and nut flours are sometimes used in gluten-free products to add protein and dietary fiber.

  • Halal: means "lawful" or "religiously appropriate" and like Kosher Food pork is considered unclean. However there is a number of differences between Kosher and Halal and they are:

    • The animal is slaughter with a singular incision across the neck, cutting through the windpipe, food pipe, jugular, and carotid arteries of both sides, but leaving the spinal cord intact. The name of Allah has to be invoked individually on each animal to be slaughtered. I suspect this is where a number of individuals are getting hot and bothered around Australia. I personally don't mind object if my food is dedicated to Allah nor do I believe it erodes the fabric of Australian culture. Australian culture has always been a moving fest as long as we aren't harming anyone, I'm a happy scamp.

    • The meat of rabbit and shell fish are permissible in Halal. However all alcohol is banned.

  • Kosher: is a word derived from a Hebrew term "kashrus" and means suitable or pure. The term kosher has other applications but we're talking about food, so in a nutshell Kosher means the following:

    • The consumption of animals that both chew cud and have cloven hooves e.g. the pig does not chew cud nor have cloven hooves and the camel chews cud but does not have cloven hooves. The animal must be slaughtered humanely as Jewish law prohibits causing pain to animals.

    • Birds are generally considered Kosher with the exception of the eagle, owl, swan, pelican, vulture, and stork - this also includes their young and eggs. Eggs of kosher birds are allowed as long as they do not contain blood.

    • Prohibition of combining meat and milk. In strict Jewish households even the utilises used to prepare meat and diary are separated, however rumour has it there is a loophole with fish (note it must have fins and scales, shellfish are exempt) and this is what has given rise to the popular smoked salmon, cream cheese bagel combination.

    • All products that grow in the soil or on plants, bushes, or trees are kosher. But bear in mind insects are definitely not Kosher. Just another reason why we shouldn't eat them.

    • Gelatin, casein, and bull blood are unable to be used in the kosher wine-making process. All devices and utensils used for the harvest or the processing of the grapes must be cleansed under supervision and bottles may not be filled multiple times

  • Vegan: True Vegans are individuals who refrain from using and consuming animal flesh and items produced from animals e.g. leather, silk and wool. Vegans believe their practice is compassionate but I strongly dislike any advocacy that forces the practice of Veganism onto animals, especially cats which are true carnivores.

  • Vegetarians: are individuals who refrain from meat and follow a diet comprising of fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds. The practice of Vegetarianism is extremely diverse with some Vegetarians excluding dairy products, eggs and by-products of animal slaughter such as animal derived rennet and gelatin. There are also a number of individuals who follow a Semi-Vegetarian Diet that allows for the inclusion of poultry and seafood.


  1. I can't believe that people would try to make a pet follow a vegan lifestyle.. Jeepers.

  2. Working in a hospital, I could tell you stories all day about allergy and dietary crazies. Some are completely legit, others come from the neurology wards (literally!).

    My personal favourite, is one who can't consume amines, because it causes her to have seizures. She said laughing had the same effect. Poor soul.

    Side note: Colours such as Caramel IVb, dextrose and glucose derived from wheat have been largely found to contain such low quantities of the gluten protein, due to their highly processed nature, that they do not cause a reaction in the majority of the Coeliac population. This is another battle I have at work all the time ha ha.