07/08/2010 09:44 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Expanding Halal Food's Availability

May 22-24, I was at the National Restaurant Association (NRA Show). What an experience! Over 2,000 vendors displaying products that ran the gamut from salsa to baked chips and dip to veggie rolls to teas of every concoction. Then there were vendors selling everything from cutlery to crockery. This was my first time at the NRA and the variety was dizzying.

I was accompanied by my colleague Maria Omar, who is director of media relations at the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America. We stopped and mingled with vendor after vendor, nibbling on samples and learning more about what went into those foods. What we learned shouldn't have been that surprising. Food products are being certified vegan, vegetarian, halal, kosher, gluten-free, this free and that free by the cartload and they still taste amazing!

Maria and I represent the halal certification industry, where foods are certified as permissible for consumption by Muslims -- i.e. they are free of pork, pork by-products and alcohol. Plus, to be halal, meat -- whether it's beef, lamb, chicken, a camel or goat -- should be slaughtered while pronouncing the words, "In the Name of God". Such are the stipulations governing food as mentioned in the Quran.

Every vendor we spoke to expressed an interest in learning more about what halal certification involved. Certification symbols have become the stamp of purity these days. Halal certification opens the door to a $20 billion economy for halal food in the United States alone. There are 8-9 million Muslims in the USA and they, too, would like to reach for those gummy bears, those marshmallows, those jello cups -- all of which they can't eat as they can contain gelatin derived from prohibited animal bones. Muslims never know if those animal bones are pig bones so they avoid products with gelatin entirely. Or they don't know if gelatin is sourced from permissible animals that have been slaughtered in the name of God and according to Islamic rules, and that's where halal certification comes in. IFANCA does the homework for Muslims and makes sure it's all halal or permissible.

Muslim students on campus, even those who have no choice but to pay for food service as residents of on-campus dorms, don't always have access to halal meals. To fill this void, has come up with a brand new concept: halal certified products that can be purchased with a single click. As Don Tymchuck, Director of says, "We want to make sure keeping halal is easy even when you're miles away from the closest halal grocery store."

Muslim parents are concerned, especially during Ramadan, which starts around August 11, 2010. Now anyone can have a nourishing Ramadan Care Pack delivered to their child. A seven day supply of halal goodies is available in three cuisines: South Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean/African. The Ramadan Care Pack comprises both naturally halal products and 100% halal certified ready-to-eat meals. Orders can be placed at .

In Chicago, we can find a halal restaurant or halal grocery store easily. But if you're Muslim and live in Wisconsin or North Dakota, you may not be that lucky.That's what makes a stellar idea. Its range extends from dates to 100 % halal certified high protein instant beverages and ready-to-eat meals.