Asak, It is really difficult to identify all the haraam ingredients in our common grocery items such as chips, cookies, cheese, seasoning, ice cream etc etc. Is there any authentic resource for muslims in the west, where we can verify that the products we are purchasing contain prohibited ingredients or not ?
Also to what extent should we be cautious about these ingredients ?
All praise is due to Allah.
Determining the orgin of derived ingredients in food products is a common source of concern for Muslims. Many scholars state that impure ingredients that undergo a transformation, i.e. those that change into a new substance and new form, are no longer considered impure and become halal.
For example, when wine, which is impure, changes into vinegar, many scholars state that it has become purified.
What is of concern is the current state of the ingredients and whether they fall under one of the categories of food that are forbidden for consummtion.
This determination must not be done by a lay person; rather it is the work of the scholars who research these issues in depth and have knowledge of the Shari’ah. The Ulema should be the ones who clarify the ruling, and it is not permissable to speak about Allah without knowledge.
At the same time, one must respect the differences of opinion amongst the various schools of thought, and not become upset if another person is following an opinion given to him by a knowledgable scholar. It is possible that a difference of opinion exists over a particular ingredient (such as rennet, for example) just as differences exist in general between the four madhaahab.
Finally, it is important to ask the people of knowledge regarding what one eats just as it is important to learn about any other aspect of life and whether it is halal or haram, in order that one may avoid disobeying Allah by permitting what He has forbidden or forbidding what He has made permissable.
And Allah knows best.