Q: My question is regarding the handling of fruits and vegetables in the workplace as one’s job. Picking and packing them. And ones wages in return for this. I know the general principle is that fruits and vegetables are halal, but in this day and age, they have chemical sprays and insecticides/pesticides on them, and stuff put in the soils to genetically or engineer them as they grow. They also add ethyl alcohol to the wax coatings. Some wax may come from the lac beetle or bees or carnauba palm etc. Fruit and vegetables seem to produce their own wax that protect their inner contents too, along with the moisture contained within it. Fruits and veg contain alcohol too. But I’ve heard, and which seems to be true, that fruits and vegetables have had additional coatings or wax coatings put on their skins that preserve their life, protect them from bruising and prevent moisture loss, if their natural wax or coatings get worn down by means of factory processing, washing handling etc.. Perhaps irrespective of this, they still add extra coatings and wax. Some of these coatings and wax may be haram. Monoglycerides and Diglycerides are also used in (I’m not sure about in the fruit & veg) or on fruits and veg to help preserve them. I think these things are used as some kind of emulsifier, but the problem here is that they can be derived from animal sources (i.e. fats and oils). Sometimes they are derived from vegetable sources (i.e. fats and oils). If they come from animal sources then they fall into two categories. Either they are halal or non-halal (pigs, animals that we are forbidden to eat, or animals not slaughtered in the Islamic way). Most likely the substances come from haram meat. Most of the time we don’t know the source of these fats, oils, waxes sprays, pesticides, chemicals etc. i.e. whether they’ve come from a vegetable or animal source, and this brings me to my questions:
1. If I take a job where I pick and pack and generally handle fruits and vegetables, and don’t know if they have animal substances (oils and fats) all over them or in them, or don’t know about the chemicals and what they contain, can I do this work and will my wages be permissible?
2. Do I need to investigate the source of these fruits and veg and find out what was injected or sprayed upon them or rubbed on their skins? I.e. ask the manager of the workplace if he knows or contact the farms or where these fruits and veg have come from, because this maybe a bit too much?
3. What if you have a strong suspicion that they have been covered or contaminated with animal fats, oils and the like; should I avoid this work or do I need to be 100% certain about this?
4. How do we handle this issue in general in supermarkets, where we might know the origins of the fruits and veg and informed that they have responsible amounts of pesticides on them, but don’t know if they have haram substances on or in them? They also mention if they are organic and non-organic.
5. Should I be overly cautious in these matters and avoid this work, or irrespective of the above can I still do this type of work? 6. I’ve heard that fruits and veg contain natural alcohol (ethyl), what is the position on this and can one earn a living from fruits and veg that contain alcohol?
الجواب حامدا ومصليا ومسلما ومنه الصدق والصواب
A: In principle, fruit and vegetables that are sprayed with a haram substance are permitted to eat once the haram substance has been washed off. There is no prohibition in handling fruit and vegetables when they are covered with a haram substance. At worst, it is a halal food covered in a haram substance that, when washed off, will leave the fruit/vegetable permissible to eat. Furthermore, pesticides, preservatives and other such agents are impure only if they are derived from unlawful animals or alcohol derived from dates and grapes. Shellac that is derived from the lac beetle is halal to consume in my view. Thus: 1. It is permissible for you to work as a fruit and vegetable handler, whether you are aware as to whether the food is coated with a pure or impure substance or not. 2. You do not need to investigate. 3. You do not need to avoid such work. 4. Fruit and vegetables purchased in the supermarket should simply be washed thoroughly. 5. You can do this type of work. 6. The alcohol that occurs naturally in unfermented fruit and vegetables is halal.
And Allah knows best.Mufti Mohammed Zubair Butt
Al-Qalam Sharī‘ah Panel