A few months ago, a controversial rumor was circulating on social media networks and it spread like wildfire! A religious preachers on an Arab satellite prohibited people from using the instant yeast product (Saf- instant) which contains E491, which comes from animal fat, specifically pork!

This claim has caused confusion and controversy in Maghreb countries specifically, and the Arab world in general. Many women took the preacher at face value without researching the topic or asking any further questions. As a result, women in Algeria and Morocco decided not to use the French made yeast (Saf-instant). A lot of these women started making bread and other dishes containing dough without fermenting it. 

So, to what extent is this a valid argument? Are these reactions a step in the right direction or mere uneducated prejudgments? 

Let me tell you that the preacher's claims couldn't be further from the truth. The Algerian Organization for the Protection and Guidance of the consumers and their Surroundings has issued a final statement confirming that it after analyzing the yeast, it was found that it does not contain any kind of pork fat. You can refer to the attached image for the full statement.

The company producing Saf-instant has also stated that the E491 material used in the product is 100% vegetarian.

The Scientific Authority for Food and Drug Administration in Saudi Arabia (Saudi Food and Drug Authority) eliminated all doubts when they confirmed that all products manufactured in the Arab countries are Halal. It uploaded a report on its official website that shows that the additives, are added to food products according to the regulations and standards of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf and with specific percentages and quality and in conformity with the approved international standards. They do not contain any substance that is forbidden according to the Islamic religion. 

In any case, to ward off any suspicion or doubt, and before buying any product, be sure to do the following:

  • The product shall be manufactured in an Islamic country (there are many food products made in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Turkey, is considered better than their American counterparts.
  • Containing the word "halal".
  • It contains the phrase "free of pork fat."

But this is not all that we have to say. Don't you want to want to know some information about the substance E491?

The scientific name of E491 is sorbitan monostearate. This substance is made from of sorbitol, and a fatty acid, although the fatty acid source is often vegetable oils, the use of animal fats is not excluded, so you are advised to look for foods that give detailed information about the origin of fat used. It will often will be mentioned as part of the contents in the product description part so no need to worry. 

Sorbitan monostearate is considered an emulsifier, a thickener and a capacitor, it is also used as a sweetener. It helps to reduce the humidity in the products and thus extend the life of products, you may find the name of this material in skin products especially for dry and sensitive skin care products.

Is substance E491 safe for everybody to use?

This substance is declared safe by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and by the European Food Safety Authority, there is no limit on the maximum dose allowed daily -according to WHO experts. There is no proof of the existence of side effects on children, pregnant women and other groups who suffer from various health problems. It is advised, however, to consume moderately without exaggeration, as side effects may appear if consumed in large doses. 


Look on foods that contains less additives and more natural ingredients. And as I always I say, a product that contains more than three components is not a healthy product, and to have a healthy body, one should fuel up with healthy food. Diseases are the way your body is communicating its frustration with unnatural products. So don't be so surprised next time when you are not feeling so well! And always know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. 

Bayan Tayeh
Bayan works as a content writer and graphic designer. She is highly interested in the field of healthcare and health education. Her goal is to change the way people think about sticking to some dietary habits, and to encourage them consume real food, as possible, so we can build a healthier world.