In Islam, products considered halal are acceptable to use, while those considered haram are unacceptable. Since the use of pork and its byproducts are forbidden in Islam, practicing Muslims must stay clear of any products containing these ingredients. What many don't realize is that it's a common practice to use pork-based ingredients in cosmetics and personal hygiene products, such as toothpaste. When looking at the ingredients used in toothpaste, it's important to pay particular attention whenever glycerin is listed, as it may be derived from pork fat. Since it's often difficult to determine the exact type of glycerin used in products, the best way to be guaranteed halal toothpaste is to look for products certified as being halal or vegan.
For the most part, toothpaste manufacturers use glycerin as a sweetening and preserving agent for their products. The problem is, they often fail to state where their glycerin is derived from. Glycerin can be made from the fat and lard of cows and pigs, or it can also be completely plant based. While some manufacturers will list whether their glycerin is plant based or derived from animals directly on the label, most only list the word glycerin, which can be frustrating to those who desire a more detailed description. Manufacturers may also alter their glycerin sources every now and then, depending on which type is cheaper at any given time.
The best way to distinguish halal toothpaste from other varieties is to look to see if it's halal certified by a reputable organization. In North America, the leading certification establishment is the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America, or IFANCA, but many other smaller organizations also exist, such as the Muslim Consumer Group, or MCG. If finding a certified halal toothpaste poses a problem, another option is to look for vegan toothpastes, as they won't contain animal products of any kind. For all other toothpastes, it's best to contact the manufacturer directly to inquire about the origin of the glycerin.
Consumers should also be aware that toothpaste formulas may vary when sold in different countries. For example, a major manufacturer that sells products worldwide may offer halal toothpaste to some demographics and not to others. Manufacturers often cater to specific needs of a demographic to sell products, so in areas with large Muslim populations, offering halal toothpaste would make the most financial sense. In any case, it's important to remember that just because a toothpaste brand uses plant-based glycerin in one country doesn't mean it won't sell products containing pork-derived glycerin in another.