Glycerine is a clear, thick, slippery substance used as a thickener, low-calorie sweetener, and emulsifier in foods and medications as well as an humectant (moisturizer) in health and beauty products. The source of glycerine may be animal fat, vegetable oil or the toxic petro-chemical epichlorohydrin. The processes used to produce glycerine may be either saponification (soap-making), or transesterification (the catalytic reaction of an oil with an alcohol [methanol or ethanol]).
Until recently, much of the world's glycerine was produced from the chemical 'epichlorohydrin' which is derived from petroleum (crude oil), not from animals. Today, however, most of the world's glycerin is produced as a by-product of biodiesel fuel production. The production of bio diesel entails collecting large amounts of animal and vegetable fat waste from restaurants and putting it through the transesterification process. Glycerin is a 10% waste-product of the bio diesel production process. Large scale production of biodiesel, especially in the European Union, has led to an excess of crude glycerin in the market, making the epichlorohydrin process no longer economical.
The current published food import regulations of the countries of Qatar and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia permit glycerin in food products imported into their countries. It is uncertain as to whether these regulations will be reviewed or modified, given the recent shift away from petro-chemical sources and towards restaurant waste fats, the raw form of which contain some degree of pig fat.
It is very possible that recent changes to glycerine production methods may impact its allowability in foods imported into Saudi Arabia and Qatar. For this reason, AMNA places glycerin into the "doubtful" category.