Ensuring clean, safe and halal food

Food insecurity is the state of insufficient good quality food for people.

The typical understanding of food insecurity refers to food scarcity and deprivation due to poverty, climate problems and environmental calamities, or pandemics.

Crises about food insecurity have increased during the Covid-19 pandemic. Many people did not have enough food in part due to movement restrictions.

The United Nations World Food Programme Report in 2020 said 265 million people faced acute food insecurity as their accessibility to food was restricted during the pandemic.

In addition, the pandemic has not only worsened food insecurity, but also indirectly affected people's physical and mental health, as well as wellbeing.

Issues of food insecurity have been thought of as problems of the past, where many countries and people faced challenges geographically, financially and socially.

However, other than famines or a climate change phenomenon, reasons for food insecurity are actually multiple, and not only due to environmental issues.

Economic condition is among the most significant. A United States Department of Agriculture report in 2016 revealed the correlation between the rate of poverty and unemployment with food insecurity.

When affordable and good quality food was unreachable to a large part of the world and society, that led to malnutrition and other health-related conditions and illnesses.

Food-related nutritional inadequacies are another indication of food insecurity as people do not have reliable mechanisms for well-balanced food.

It is a major cause of malnutrition, especially in low-income countries or those living in restricted or rural areas.

Bear in mind that characteristics of a healthy and well-balanced nutrition are rich and diverse food and choices, ranging from a wide spectrum of fruits and vegetables to proteins and carbohydrates.

Understandably, lack of nutrition and micronutrient deficiencies are major causes of illness and diseases that increase morbidity, mortality rates and health-related burdens on healthcare systems and countries.

Another type of food insecurity involves disruptive patterns of food intake, or food choices that people succumb to when it comes to food and eating behaviour.

In this situation, people with issues of food insecurity may be under or over nourished.

Their conditions can lead to health complications, such as anxiety and depression, eating and feeding disorders and supra-gastric belching, and metabolic diseases such as diabetes and obesity.

Islamic concerns about food security and safety are derived from the teachings of the Quran and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad SAW.

The teachings encompass the types and quality of food choices, as well as the desirable eating-related behaviour, which promote good quality food choices, and at the same time, are preventative in nature.

In this regard, there are several situations that the Quran ordains people to consume only pure and lawful food, described in surah al Baqarah, verses 168 and 172, and surah al An'am, verses 118 and 121.

Furthermore, the Prophet Muhammad, from Sa'ad, who relayed that the Prophet once said:

"O Sa'ad, purify your food (and as a result) you will become the one whose supplications are accepted. I swear by He in whose hands the soul of Muhammad lies, verily a servant (of Allah) tosses a haram morsel in his stomach (due to which) no deed is accepted from him for 40 days" (Tabarani).

In another narration, Abu Bakar narrated that the Prophet Muhammad said: "That body will not enter Paradise which has been nourished with haram" (Bayhaqi).

In conclusion, Islam has shown the way to food safety.

Therefore, it is the responsibility of Muslims to ensure that the food they eat is clean, safe and halal.

Ensuring the availability of halal and safe food is a charity they can do for their family, society and for their religion and they will be rewarded accordingly by Allah in the hereafter.

The writer is a fellow at the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (Ikim)

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times

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