Is Flour Halal?
Flour is the main ingredient in the bakery and pastry products. While other types of flour are used either as a main or substitute ingredient such as rye flour, rice flour, corn starch, etc. Flour made from wheat grains are milled and sifted to obtain flour with a large specific particle.
There are two types of wheat flour, i.e. strong flour and soft flour. Strong flour is usually used to make bread, puff pastry, and products made by involving fermentation process. Soft flour is commonly used to make biscuits and cookies. The main difference between strong flour and soft flour lies in its gluten content, where the strong flour contains about 13% gluten while soft flour contents of about 8.3%. Gluten is responsible for raising flour dough after adding the water and raising added material, or fermented using yeast.
In the making of wheat flour are often added materials additives that serve to enhance the characteristics of wheat flour produced. One of the additives that can be added in the making of wheat flour is L-cysteine (usually in the form of its hydrochloride), which serves as the improving agents (improving the characteristics of wheat flour desired). Cysteine can soften the gluten (the major protein that plays a role in the raising of wheat dough made from wheat flour), so the dough becomes tenderer. In addition to softening, the cysteine may lead to greater rising of the dough.
In addition to L-cysteine, it was quite a lot of other additives that may be used in the processing flour. Besides, the addition of these additives is to improve the characteristic of natural flour, in particular the characteristic of the flour according to the roasting process (e.g. shorten the handling time with low energy input), also to maintain uniformity and quality of flour in accordance with applicable standards. The addition of ascorbic acid, alkali bromate or enzymes lip oxygenate and soybean will increase the quality of weak gluten wheat flour, for example in bread making. In this case, the dough becomes drier, the resistance to extension increases, more tolerant to mixing and more stable during fermentation. In addition, the volume of the dough during baking increased and also the crumb structure in the bread will be better. Addition of enzyme protein in flour dough that is made can result in a tenderer. The addition of alpha amylase enzyme in the form of malt flour or enzyme flour as the result of microorganisms can enhance the ability of microorganisms to hydrolyse starch contained in the flour. Thus khamr that grows in the dough will get enough energy so that carbon dioxide becomes optimal and the dough rising as well. Inexpensive L-cysteine mostly available in the market is L-cysteine made from human hair, especially those came from China. Of course, because it is derived from the human body then L-cysteine is forbidden. So that, flour uses L-cysteine from human hair is haram (prohibited) for Muslims. However, in addition to L-cysteine made from human hair, it can also be obtained from poultry feathers. As we know a lot of hair and feathers contain L-cysteine. L-cysteine from poultry feather is still questionable of its halal-ness. If it was obtained at the time when the animal was still alive, it is prohibited. If it was taken when the animal was dead, it is questionable whether it was slaughtered based on Islam? Fortunately now there are L-cysteine produced by fermentation and may be used, but the price is more expensive. Thus, actually flour on the market is not necessary haram, although using L-cysteine, depending from which L-cysteine derived. If we find flour with no halal logo on the pack, then we have to avoid it.
Besides of additives are added to the flour to improve the characteristic of flour, some additives are added to flour in order to enrich the nutritional value. The additives are minerals and vitamins. In terms of halal, which is noteworthy, is the addition of vitamins that are not fat soluble and can easily be damaged during storage, such as vitamin A. So that vitamin A can be easily soluble in aqueous food products and that are not easily damaged during storage, the vitamin A is usually coated. Coating resources may be used from halal ingredients, such as various types of gums (usually made from plants) and also from questionable ingredients such as gelatine.