By Fouzia van der Fort

All Coca-Cola contains alcohol, but not nearly enough for it to be declared haraam, or prohibited, in terms of Islamic belief.

Representatives from the Halaal Trust, Muslim Judicial Council (MJC), Islamic Council of South Africa and the Sunni Ulama Council, following the test results at an independent laboratory report in Durban, declared that the alcohol amount was the equivalent to five sugar granules in a pot of a million and not enough to intoxicate a consumer.

They visited three bottling plants in Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town and were satisfied that alcohol was not used in the manufacturing of Coca-Cola.

Analytical toxicologist Volker Schillack explained that alcohol is produced when sugar reacts with yeast.

Moulana Abdool Wahab Wookay, chief executive officer of the trust, explained that while alcohol was not an ingredient of Coca-Cola, its contents naturally reacted with each other resulting in the presence of alcohol.

Greg Morse, manufacturing director of Coca-Cola, said in an earlier statement that "no alcohol is added as an ingredient and no fermentation takes place".

The Halaal Trust sent three bottles of Coca-Cola for testing: one with a defective seal, one with a waxy substance floating in it and a standard bottle.

In the standard bottle of Coca-Cola, 0.00052 percent of alcohol was found, which Wookay said was too small to have any effect.

Wookay explained: "When one consumes something in excess, it has an effect and becomes haraam (prohibited) for you."

The Halaal Trust has consulted with Jakim, a Malaysian government department which certifies products.

Malaysia receives its Coke concentrate from Swaziland, as does South Africa.

"Jakim has certified Coca-Cola to be halaal," said Wookay.

Their fatwa (decree) states that a beverage is "harus" (allowed) if, after it is diluted, the alcohol level is about 0.01 percent.

Last month a Mpumalanga doctor, Haroon Dindar, bought a crate of 1,25 litre bottles of Coke from a bottling plant in Ermelo.

One of the bottles he opened smelt of alcohol. He sent the contents for testing, which showed it contained 0,925g of alcohol per 100ml.

Wookay said: "Conclusive evidence is necessary to certify the product halaal."

Denise Green, marketing services manager of the company, said they had received word from the MJC that it was fine for Muslims to go on drinking Coca-Cola.

"We have not seen the results, and are unable to comment on the situation" said Green.