Purpose: Recent reports indicate that UAE Muslim consumers desire halal certification because they are concerned about the halal status of their purchases. However, to date, research on consumer worries has been anecdotal. The purpose of this paper is to quantify consumer concerns to determine which categories, if any, are problematic as well as the nature of consumer reservations. Design/methodology/approach: The authors developed a list of categories and halal concerns with qualitative methods then presented the resulting questionnaire to a non-probability sample of 300 UAE Muslim consumers. Findings: In total, 86.5 percent of respondents felt "great concern" that at least one category was not halal. On average, subjects felt "great concern" about 5.5 categories. The categories that most distressed them were processed meat products. Indeed, 44 percent of the sample felt "great concern" about hamburgers. On average, women felt "great concern" about more categories (6.4) than men (4.2) largely because they were more worried by toiletries. Research limitations/implications: Future research should generalize results through international samples. Moreover, research should determine if concerns translate into behaviour which would give a measure of the value of halal certification or brands. Practical implications: The finding that virtually all consumers are concerned about the halal status of their products represents a great opportunity for trustworthy firms, brands and institutions. Originality/value: This is the first refereed study of Islamic consumer halal concerns in an Islamic country. The results are surprisingly similar to those to be expected in a European country: a general distrust of the system and a broad desire for assurance. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.