Since I will be a speaker at a food event in a Muslim-majority country, Asia Food & Beverage Summit in Jakarta, I asked the Indonesian authority issuing fatwas (ruling on Islamic law) on what is Halal (permissible) food and what is Haram (forbidden). In the case of crickets and worms (e.g. mealworms and silkworms), the authority, LPPOM MUI, stated that the decision is quite simple. According to Islamic literature, the Prophet has eaten grasshoppers, which belong to the same family as crickets; therefore, crickets are Halal. I received confirmation from fatwa Kep-139/MUI/IV/2000 released in year 2000 stating, “Cricket is an insect of the same kind as grasshoppers. Breeding cricket for its benefits (including medicine, cosmetics, eating) is allowed (Mubah/Halal) as long as it is not harmful to humans”.
As for worms, there are different opinions. Some ulamas (interpreters of Islamic rules), such as Imam Malik, Ibn Abi Laila and al-Auza’i, declare that eating worms is Halal as long as it brings benefits and it is not harmful to human health. But there are also ulamas who say human consumption of worms is forbidden.
We asked for confirmation from a Halal certification expert, Suryo Wiratno. He replied that in the case of worms, according to the Quran:
– Surah Al-Anám verse 145: “The prohibited materials (Haram) are carrion, blood poured forth, swine flesh, or abomination which was immolated to the name of other than Allah.”
– Surah Al-Baqarah verse 29: “He it is Who created for you all that is in the earth…”
Following these verses, worms are not included on the prohibited material. Mr. Wiratno says that some relevant interpreters of Islamic religion have provided a different opinion; therefore, there is no consensus on worms.
Of the four major Sunni Islamic schools of thought, Hanafi scholars forbid eating bugs, while Maliki scholars accept them. The Shafi’i and Hanbali academics forbid the consumption of some insects but not others. The Quran does not specifically mention insects as a forbidden food but declares “unlawful all that is filthy” (7:157). This poses the question – What if worms are farmed in a clean environment? For example, Bombix Mori silkworms are farmed in a controlled environment and fed only with green leaves from mulberry trees.
There are no international standards to define what is Halal globally. The regulatory framework is complex, as it varies from one region to another. In the future, international bodies, such as the Standards and Metrology Institute for Islamic Countries (SMIIC), may help in this regard. One day they may clarify the position on the matter of edible insects, including the key aspect of the required slaughtering process.